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Growing-ups
April 18, 2014 11:08 AM   Subscribe

I was to discover, however, that there were many others who didn’t share my warm and benevolent views of emerging adults. Quite the contrary. Professor Jeffrey Arnett thinks 20-somethings are unfairly maligned.
posted by shivohum (173 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
I think it's great to be able to create a particular set of circumstances and then blame younger generations for responding to that set of circumstances in a predictable way. I look forward to a few decades from now, when I can say: "Damn kids, living in the basements of their parents' tsunami/smog/acid rain/UV bunkers, waiting for some dream job piloting drones instead of strapping on their environment suits and doing some minimum-wage terraforming."
posted by Behemoth at 11:22 AM on April 18 [40 favorites]


I'm on the older end of millenials at age 31. 9/11 happened a week before I went to college. The economy tanked as we entered the workforce. All the endless criticism of my generation is so frustrating, because it's so myopic. Life (in the USA at least) has changed fundamentally- nothing that we were promised as children has come to pass. What *has* come to pass is a system that's so broken that it's hard to feel positive about participating in it. I have so many friends in so many different walks of life, and the vast majority either have a resigned acceptance of the new situation, or wonder "what's the point?" No job is secure, the work you can get is beneath your abilities, and then we get criticized for the situation that we inherited. The only criticism I think can be fairly leveled at us is "Why haven't you people revolted already!?"
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 11:23 AM on April 18 [116 favorites]


The economy tanked as we entered the workforce.

If you are 31, you likely graduated college in 2006, two years before the economy tanked.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:25 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]


The difference between we Gen Xrs and you Millenials is that while we both got screwed my generation never expected anything better. I don't know if that's good or bad.
posted by Justinian at 11:27 AM on April 18 [30 favorites]


Two years is, of course, plenty of time to establish oneself professionally.

What unconstructive pedantry.
posted by mellow seas at 11:28 AM on April 18 [75 favorites]


Two years is, of course, plenty of time to establish oneself professionally.

What unconstructive pedantry.


Yeah, hi, I didn't say that. I was responding to when BuddhaInABucket says they entered the work force. (My brother is the same age)
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:30 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]


"If you are 31, you likely graduated college in 2006, two years before the economy tanked."

I'm 34 and graduated in 2007. Some of us take a longer road through college.
posted by klangklangston at 11:31 AM on April 18 [28 favorites]


1) Lots of millenials graduated a year or two "late" because of academics or Life Happening.
2) BuddhaInABucket is pretty clearly speaking about millenials as a category and not 31 year olds as a category.
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:31 AM on April 18 [9 favorites]


And the economy was already shitty for recent grads then. It just fell off a cliff in 2008.
posted by klangklangston at 11:32 AM on April 18 [31 favorites]


Haven't older adults been unfairly maligning young adults since forever?
posted by octothorpe at 11:32 AM on April 18 [7 favorites]


Hi, yeah, there's no "new life stage". It's daunting when there are no jobs or future prospects and people take a ruined economy, society and environment and dump it in your lap and expect you to fix it, especially after they spent their adulthood vigorously fucking everything up.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 11:33 AM on April 18 [7 favorites]


Anything that's a "shut the fuck up" response to those massively shared/liked articles of how millenials are the shit generation and need to get off their asses is a good thing in my book.

The difference between we Gen Xrs and you Millenials is that while we both got screwed my generation never expected anything better. I don't know if that's good or bad.

Eh, i'm smack dab in the middle of group b, and it was pretty easy to tell in high school which way the wind was blowing. Everyone knew they were fucked, and just went "Well, hmm, that's how it's gonna be i guess" and ripped the bong again.

A few people didn't, sure. Some are just old enough to now be out of school and staring at student loan debt while they work some shit entry level job that will never realistically take them all that far.

I'm on the older end of millenials at age 31. 9/11 happened a week before I went to college.

yea, 9/11 happened when i was... 11. I got yelled at to turn off my n64 and watch the news.

I feel like you're actually older than most of the people who are primarily referenced when this sort of thing comes up? I'm 24, and sometimes i feel like even i'm on the old-ish end. I feel like millenials are people born from like 88-95 with maybe a bit of wiggle room on the low end, not so much people who are already 30+.
posted by emptythought at 11:34 AM on April 18


Interesting article, and I say that as a millenial who is so, so tired of boomers writing things about millenials and making this weird sort of disingenuous attempt to "understand" millenials or whatever. Come on folks, we're just people.

That said, it is true that the millenials are often unfairly maligned, though of course the criticisms aren't without grains of truth either. Like most things, it's not so black and white as many articles make it seem, and I appreciated the nuanced approach here.

The article is right to make the point that the biggest problem millenials face is the identity-based work insanity. Combine a crappy economy with this mindset- instilled yes by the boomers - that work is identity, that 'passion' is important, blah blah blah, and you end up with a lot of depressed and confused emerging adults. Identity-based work is a myth that needs to die. Teach your children that work is necessary but doesn't have to define you - that there is also life outside of work, and that making compromises because money doesn't grow on trees doesn't mean you are a failure or that you can't still do the things you love to do.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:35 AM on April 18 [28 favorites]


Emptythought: Early 80s is the generally-understood starting point of Millenials. There will probably be a different name for the generation of people who have only ever known the USA post-9/11. At any rate, I'm clearly too young to be Gen-X so the Millenials have to take me.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 11:39 AM on April 18 [4 favorites]


this article didn't tell me anything i hadn't read before.

do any of the Gen-Xers have advice for us millennials? That's what I'd like to read.

I'd also like to read a comparison between gen-Xers and millennials, instead of between boomers and millennials.
posted by rebent at 11:40 AM on April 18 [3 favorites]


Gen-Xers? Who are they?
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:43 AM on April 18 [3 favorites]


Did anyone read the lament about "pluralism" by a Millennial in the NYTimes?

After reading it, I thought if that's one of your generation's major problems, it's not really that bad. Like, oh man, I have way too many acceptable viewpoints to consider and choose from. It's not fair. The older generation was just told what to think.
posted by ChuckRamone at 11:44 AM on April 18


The strange part of articles like this, for me, is the trope that 18-29 year olds are the product of Boomer parents.

Perhaps my math is way off, but the Baby Boom (in the US) is largely considered to be 1946 to 64.
Given even a late average of mothers at 25, that would mean that the very last cohort of Baby Boomer's children started around 1989.
A current 29 year old would have been born around 1985, with the 18 year olds born in 1996.

I mean, I get that we're supposed to blame everything on the evil Baby Boomers now, but a sizeable percentage of 18-29 year olds are children of Gen-X parents, not Boomers, aren't they?
posted by madajb at 11:52 AM on April 18 [5 favorites]


Hey! You! The 99% of the millennials, with no job and no prospects! Why not blame the 99% of the boomers for screwing things up for you?

Hey! You! The 99% of the boomers, with your pension funds bankrupt and retirement looking like a pipe dream! Why not blame the 99% of the millennials for being lazy?

Please don't make common cause against the 1% or people who, regardless of age, have it pretty easy, who have no jobs, not because they can't find them, but because jobs are for little people in far away places.
posted by tyllwin at 11:55 AM on April 18 [54 favorites]


Emptythought: Early 80s is the generally-understood starting point of Millenials.

Mid-80s. Boomers ran from 45-64, GenXers from 65-84, and Millenials from 85-04.

I'm 34 and graduated in 2007. Some of us take a longer road through college.

No kidding. I'm 42 and graduated in 07.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:56 AM on April 18 [4 favorites]


I think one of the more insidious parts of the who Passion thing is not only that you follow said passion and then it turns out it leads to piling bills and hand-to-mouth living, but also that anything resembling dilettantism is frowned upon and punished by parents, the school system, and so on.

I'm ostensibly a millennial (born '84 and graduated college in '10) and we had 'majors' or 'concentrations' or whatever in school going from sixth grade on. I mean, it was one or two classes a week until high school, but the whole Choose Your Destiny mentality was instilled real early on.

I'm good with computers. In school, I learned to work with computers from an early age. Everyone encouraged it because, hey, looks like this kid has a passion for something and that something is lucrative. Two semesters into college as a Computer Science major I realized I do not want to do this. The vague notion of what I wanted to do didn't resemble a school curriculum or a job.

...and I switched majors, switched schools, dropped out, drifted, worked shit jobs, moved back in with my mom once or twice because, well, what happens when walls come crashing down?

When the generation meant to mind the next one spends their time straight-up lying, what do you expect will happen when they hit the real world expecting something very, very different?
posted by griphus at 11:59 AM on April 18 [23 favorites]


I feel like millenials are people born from like 88-95 with maybe a bit of wiggle room on the low end, not so much people who are already 30+.

Yeah, it wasn't until about 5 minutes ago that I realized I was a millenial. Here I had always lumped myself into Gen-X, though I was born in 1984. Now I have some serious recalibrating to do: you mean all those angsty articles are about me??
posted by lollymccatburglar at 12:00 PM on April 18 [7 favorites]


GenXers from 65-84, and Millenials from 85-04.

Oh, PHEW.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 12:01 PM on April 18 [2 favorites]


I feel like millenials are people born from like 88-95 with maybe a bit of wiggle room on the low end, not so much people who are already 30+.

I'm just glad Millenials have a name other than Gen Y, which made absolutely no sense other than it follows the letter X.

Gen Xers go up to the mid-80s, more or less, so folks like lollymccatburglar are right in the middle and pretty much get to call themselves whichever.
posted by linux at 12:01 PM on April 18


Sources vary, but the most commonly accepted range is 82-04 for Millenials. Obviously it's a fuzzy thing, and more of a sociological factor than a definitive birth year cutoff.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:03 PM on April 18 [2 favorites]


The tendency though is for the acceptable year cutoffs to slide forward in time so that olds can continue to complain about youngsters as a part of some generally maligned group. Once you hit 30 no one cares about complaining about you anymore, so the dates have to change.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:04 PM on April 18 [2 favorites]


I seem to remember Gen-Y meaning Gen-Why? as in Why Bother? Because we're all such badboys you know, lazy turds and all that.
posted by rebent at 12:06 PM on April 18 [2 favorites]


I've always felt like there's a very conspicuous gap between Generation X and the Millennial right around 1981-1985.

Which is pretty convenient for me because I don't have to decide if I hate generational labels because they're the tools of the man trying to put me in his little box, or because I'm far too unique and extraordinary to be labelled accurately.
posted by griphus at 12:06 PM on April 18 [25 favorites]


Griphus: I agree with you because that idea flatters my ego.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 12:08 PM on April 18 [3 favorites]


The author says: "They are highly confident in their abilities to make a good life for themselves, whatever obstacles they might face. Would we prefer that they cringed before the challenges of adulthood? I have come to see their high self-esteem and confidence as good psychological armour for entering a tough adult world."

It's not good psychological armor to have unrealistic expectations. Having low self-esteem and being pessimistic are not good either. I think Americans would benefit from pursuing what they want to do in terms of what they are most likely to succeed at doing, not I can literally do anything I want do. It's possible if I put my mind to it, which strikes me as delusional and not a healthy attitude to instill in the majority of the populace.
posted by ChuckRamone at 12:08 PM on April 18 [2 favorites]


I often have this occasional vague wish that I were a decade or so younger in 2014 (I'm currently 37) because I think, Wow, I could start over and figure out what my career path is supposed to be instead having spent so much time being a fuck-up. I could be successful or at least aim for it.

And then I think of some of the current problems that face Millennials in terms of student loans/the exhortations to buy and accrue debt/the lack of jobs etc, and maybe things aren't so bad, after all. They're not great and I'm looking at 40 without a serious career path still, but wanting to be younger wouldn't exactly be a reward.

It's all well and good to poke fun at Those Kids Today but seriously, I have nothing but sympathy and hope for them.
posted by Kitteh at 12:10 PM on April 18 [3 favorites]


As a 32 year old I think I'm part of the elusive "Generation Y", scrunched somewhere between the Gen X and millenial zeitgeists without fitting well in either. I'm way too young for Gen X - "Smells Like Teen Spirit" happened when I was in 2nd grade, even though it changed my life - and the millenial "digital native" conversation seems to post-date me, since I graduated college in 2004 and law school in 2007, and grew up with a 286 computer and Sierra games. So yeah, I don't know where I fit and I think I can just pick and choose from both generations to figure out my identity, if I feel like it. I sympathize with enough of the millenial mindset that I sort of choose to identify with it most of the time. Also as a young-ish lawyer I'm definitely part of the "post-employment economy" struggle being written about. Yay.
posted by naju at 12:13 PM on April 18 [10 favorites]


Perhaps my math is way off, but the Baby Boom (in the US) is largely considered to be 1946 to 64.
Given even a late average of mothers at 25, that would mean that the very last cohort of Baby Boomer's children started around 1989.
A current 29 year old would have been born around 1985, with the 18 year olds born in 1996.


Uh, that's a late average?

Okay, hmm, I googled and 24-25 seems to be the average average of first-time mothers (I really did think it would be older--must be my millennial outlook), but presumably a lot of them went on to have more children after that. Anyway, I'm 26 (and an oldest child) and my parents were born in 1950 and 1953. You've probably got both Gen-X parents and Boomer parents in there, but the math of millennials having Boomer parents doesn't seem that off to me.
posted by sunset in snow country at 12:14 PM on April 18


do any of the Gen-Xers have advice for us millennials? That's what I'd like to read.


Firmly in the Gen X demographic I guess, and 20 years old in 1990, we had a pretty good recession at the time. Living in San Francisco noone could get jobs, there were lines of people applying to work at TCBY. 1990-1995 kinda sucked to be in your early 20s. The internet came along and made things a little better. Until that boom crashed.

Generational divisions are relevant from a cultural perspective I guess, but ultimately bogus. Probably more accurate to divide people into "have kids" and "don't have kids".

My advice to millennials is not to make any life decisions based on anything you read in the media. Avoid debt. Make good friends. Stay in shape. Travel to foreign places (which could be across town).
posted by jeremias at 12:14 PM on April 18 [12 favorites]


I'm 34 and graduated in 2007. Some of us take a longer road through college.

Pfft. I didn't even graduate until I was almost 34. It took me from 1982 until 1998 and four different schools to finally get my damn BS degree. And I graduated with a close friend who had started in 1971.
posted by octothorpe at 12:15 PM on April 18 [3 favorites]


Perhaps my math is way off, but the Baby Boom (in the US) is largely considered to be 1946 to 64.
Given even a late average of mothers at 25, that would mean that the very last cohort of Baby Boomer's children started around 1989.
A current 29 year old would have been born around 1985, with the 18 year olds born in 1996


My mom was 33 when i was born, and it seems like a common thing among people my age to have somewhat older parents. Yea, a lot of people have younger parents too... but i feel like my parents generation +/- a bit was right around when the whole "Don't have kids when you're 20 because that's what the maaaan wants you to do!" thing started.
posted by emptythought at 12:15 PM on April 18


Maybe we can reclaim "Gen-Y" for the in-betweeners of 1980–1985 who don't really fit in with either Gen-X or the millennials? It has a better ring to it than "Generation Taint."
posted by stopgap at 12:18 PM on April 18 [13 favorites]


That's a very, very soft pitch for universally free college. Nary a mention of student debt in the whole thing.
posted by postcommunism at 12:23 PM on April 18


It has a better ring to it than "Generation Taint."

"Perineals"
posted by griphus at 12:23 PM on April 18 [68 favorites]


make gen y 1975-1985, and I'll endorse it.

also: I graduated my BA at 25. don't assume when people started university, especially for those who aren't middle class and/or paid their own way.
posted by jb at 12:30 PM on April 18 [8 favorites]


My mom is a (later) baby-boomer. I'm definitely no millennial, as she was a teenage mother, but most people her age did have kids in the late 80s and 1990s, like her sister (born 1960, kids born between 1990-1998).
posted by jb at 12:33 PM on April 18


You've probably got both Gen-X parents and Boomer parents in there, but the math of millennials having Boomer parents doesn't seem that off to me.

Sure, there are a lot of millenials with Boomer parents, no doubt, especially younger siblings.

But once again my generation (X) gets over-looked. I want my credit for screwing the millennials as well, damnit!
posted by madajb at 12:35 PM on April 18 [5 favorites]


Hey kids, I'm a late cohort boomer, as is my sister. My niece is a Millenial. If you Millenials don't like being generalized about, well neither do boomers. And a lot of people giving you crap are Gen-X, not boomers. Us late boomers are just trying to hold onto jobs and not get age discriminated out of our jobs before we have some sort of pension (being in your 50's is a scary time at work these days). Also, for what it is worth, there are 2 cohorts of baby boomers and those of us who were born in the second half of the baby boom and came of age in the seventies and early 80's of unemployment and gas shortages are different from the sixties boomers. It took me a year to get a job after I graduated from college (and yeah I lived with my parents part of that time) and 5 more years to get what would be considered a steady (though low paying) job. Right now both my sister and niece are underemployed, and my husband's job is rocky (he's another late cohort boomer). Our parents came of age in the Depression and World War II, so hardly had it easy in their youth either. Also, we don't buy in to the Identity-based work thing any more than you do.

Also, I'm quoting tyllwin for truth:
Hey! You! The 99% of the millennials, with no job and no prospects! Why not blame the 99% of the boomers for screwing things up for you?

Hey! You! The 99% of the boomers, with your pension funds bankrupt and retirement looking like a pipe dream! Why not blame the 99% of the millennials for being lazy?

Please don't make common cause against the 1% or people who, regardless of age, have it pretty easy, who have no jobs, not because they can't find them, but because jobs are for little people in far away places.

posted by gudrun at 12:35 PM on April 18 [4 favorites]


Boomer here. One of the things that gets me about my generation is how they kind of take credit for all the goodies that came as an accidental byproduct of the advantage that America had coming out of WWII - i.e. access to capital; manufacturing capacity; management talent; established channels of distribution; intact, universal education system, etc. etc. It was on that surfeit of advantage that America became wealthy during the postwar years, because every other regional economy had either been crushed (Europe, Asia) or long forgotten/ignored (Africa, Latin America).

Yet, with all that advantage, our generation's leaders managed to piss away advantage in autos, steel, consumer electronics...you name it. We were too busy becoming the "consumer society", droning on in mostly meaningless jobs kept interesting only because we kept getting regular access to the carrot called "a raise". It was easy to buy a home; education didn't cost a fortune; medical care was taken over by one's company (adding health care benefits started as a way to compete for scarce, skilled labor supplies following WWII).

It's a cognitive fact that individuals/groups who experience accidental advantage over a long period of time start to take personal credit for that advantage. That's my generation.

I must admit to buying into the aforementioned model of success during my college years and early working years, gradually punctuated by doubts about "it this really all there is?". Without details, I've managed to find my way forward in a non-linear fashion; I have definitely paid a price in overall security for my decisions, but that has been my choice. Many of my contemporaries are quite comfortable; some are not. There is also a lot of luck and happenstance breaks (or not) that accompanies one through life's journey.

Anyway, I think that the idea that "we worked hard and established ourselves, why can't you?" is the living myth that generates a lot of animosity between the boomer and millennial generations. That, in addition to the boomer generation, in its early years (until the book really flowered with surfeits of $$$ and "stuff") has to really work hard, and didn't have all that much. the memory of these things, along with an increasing comfort zone of wealth led boomer parents to get into things like the "self-esteem movement" for their kids, and doing what they could to make life easier for their kids. Boomers weren't looking ahead; they thought that the accidental lifestyle brought by post WWII advantage would last. Now we know - in spades - that Boomers were wrong.

Along with all this, the top end of capitalist culture was busy making/buying law that would guarantee their advantage - mostly because that's 1) a basic human impulse; and 2) they had more perfect information about how capital was starting to move seamlessly between borders, thus removing the need to insure one's own country had the goodies. So, we ended up with stuff like outsourcing work; failures to repair infrastructure; failures to re-tool education, etc. etc. The whole thing has turned out - after an orgy of consumerist excess - to be one big fail. It was nice while it lasted, but now it's over.

So what to do? Experiment! Some will live at home for longer periods of time (this has been the scene in Europe for the last several decades - e.g. something like 40% of all Italian men over 25 are still living at home). Some will start small businesses. And so on.

All that said, this is going to be a very painful time for anyone who was led to believe that "just following the rules" that boomers thought were true (e.g. about education; work as identity; the American Dream; rugged independence; buy stuff, any stuff, especially of it's on sale; 2200 sq,ft. homes are "where it's at"; go $100K in debt to get educated; "just put your head down and follow instructions", etc. etc.).

Add to this that those who were brought up with their parents best intentions at making sure their kids had a lot of "self esteem", know that the latter has been shown to be quite harmful in that one does not build self esteem by being told that one is a genius whatever. One builds self esteem by being rewarded for the *work* that one does on the way to accomplishing a goal. Within the above lies a gen of potential wisdom - i.e. that anyone, no matter their situation, can start to do *something*...*anything*...to try to make their lives better - whether that be in procuring a job, starting a business, becoming more cooperative, teaching others, helping out where its needed, etc, etc. These are the things that knit together the fabric of community; these are the things that need to be done (without detail, because there is not enough time to go into greater detail).

Don't lose hope! Change is possible. Embrace your fear about the unknown because it's all unknown. Try to be kind to yourself, and then to others. Live every day like it's your last (because it could be!), but with an intention to make that day better for yourself, and others. Things will work out.

“Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.”
― T.S. Eliot
posted by Vibrissae at 12:36 PM on April 18 [10 favorites]


do any of the Gen-Xers have advice for us millennials? That's what I'd like to read.

Yeah. Stop reading articles that try to pin down what your generation is "about" and forge your own path. You may not cause a huge sweeping overhaul of society, but you may carve out something off the grid for yourself.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:37 PM on April 18 [7 favorites]


I'm born in 1977, but no way am I gen x. I was in early high school when gen xers where graduating university.

I like to call us late 70 babies "nadirs" - we were the nadir of the birth rate between the baby boom (of which gen x was the downslide) and the baby boom echo of the 80s and 90s. Demographically, we're special, at least in Canada (which is all that matters).
posted by jb at 12:39 PM on April 18 [6 favorites]


All this talk of generational strife seems to be missing an over-arching point, I feel, which is that late capitalism in America is a failed project and things are in the middle of crashing down, hard. I assume at some point we're going to have to band together to work things out, because shit's only going to get more ugly from here. Oops was that too dark.
posted by naju at 12:40 PM on April 18 [7 favorites]


Stop reading articles that try to pin down what your generation is "about" and forge your own path.

I'd argue that "let someone who can handle the risk forge the path, and get them to pay you to keep it in order" is a better strategy these days.
posted by griphus at 12:43 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]


How is babby boomer formed? How generation get pragnant?
posted by hellojed at 12:50 PM on April 18 [6 favorites]


Us late boomers are just trying to hold onto jobs and not get age discriminated out of our jobs before we have some sort of pension (being in your 50's is a scary time at work these days).

Probably you should avoid mentioning your pension when you're trying to get sympathy from millennials, most of whom have probably never even seen an ad for a job that has one.
posted by enn at 12:51 PM on April 18 [42 favorites]


My advice to millennials? Life is short and there are no guarantees. Cram as much love, pleasure, compassion and good works into your life as you can manage while still surviving and not hurting others. Never worry about annoying other people with your questions or your demands for truth and betterment. Your elders are just as confused as you are, because everything they used to know no longer applies; they're just better at faking it than you are.

The truth of it is, the world may already be fucked or it may still be salvageable; no one knows for sure. But even a nearly hopeless fight is better odds than giving up completely, so don't give up. You may be able to contribute to pulling humanity's ass out of the fire. But it's going to be nothing but struggle during your (and the remainder of my) lifetimes, and those of our kids.
posted by emjaybee at 12:51 PM on April 18 [4 favorites]


I'd argue that "let someone who can handle the risk forge the path, and get them to pay you to keep it in order" is a better strategy these days.

....Gen-X is the generation that figured out that those forged paths were leading us in the wrong direction we've been heading all this time.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:52 PM on April 18


The difference between we Gen Xrs and you Millenials is that while we both got screwed my generation never expected anything better. I don't know if that's good or bad.

Oh, things were WAY easier when we were coming up. They were pretty tough - remember Michael Moore and Downsize This and TempSlave zine? - but if you had a college degree you could get a job. Not in your field, certainly. But if you had a degree and you wanted to work, you signed up at a temp agency and you could get two or three weeks a month of work minimum and make rent, and eventually one of your postings would go permanent. Plus, the government and the university system still had money and there weren't massive hiring freezes everywhere.

It's pretty sad - things felt economically pretty bleak at the time, but nothing like it is now. There simply isn't work, unless you want to go to South Dakota and drive a truck.
posted by Frowner at 12:56 PM on April 18 [4 favorites]


I'm 34 and graduated in 2007. Some of us take a longer road through college.

No kidding. I'm 42 and graduated in 07.


I'm 34 and graduating next month! (yay!)
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 12:58 PM on April 18 [8 favorites]


do any of the Gen-Xers have advice for us millennials? That's what I'd like to read.

I dunno. I get that Millenials feel they have drawn a short straw, and to a large extent they have. Not that my generation had it particularly easy, but shit wasn't as fucked up as it is now, for sure.

That being said - Boomers also had it fucked up - my dad graduated HS to get sucked up into the military and shipped overseas. I am here in part because he believed he wouldn't be. His younger siblings graduated to stagflation and threats of nuclear winter and gas lines.

So... I don't know what to say. Vote ? Riot ? Somethingelse ?

What I can tell you is that the older generation will bitch, long and hard, about what it is that you do - I heard so much shit about my long hair and my (1) earring. About how comics, D&D and Rock music were going to ruin me and hand my soul to Satan. And so on....

Here's the thing Millenials - fuck the olds. Do what you gotta do.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:58 PM on April 18 [2 favorites]


do any of the Gen-Xers have advice for us millennials? That's what I'd like to read.

Sure, I do. When I was 20 I read lots of articles about my generation, "Generation X," and how we represented a new kind of American, different from those who had come before. And it turned out we were just the same! As will you be.

Oh, and also, don't bring back Zima, even ironically. It's nasty.
posted by escabeche at 12:59 PM on April 18 [9 favorites]


....Gen-X is the generation that figured out that those forged paths were leading us in the wrong direction we've been heading all this time.

I mean either Gen-X succeeded and made some better, more sustainable paths for the later generations to maintain, or they failed in which case why bother emulating them?

It's not like there's not going to be trailblazers in every generation. But forging a new path without a safety net is, well, how a lot of people my age are in a lot of trouble as we speak.
posted by griphus at 12:59 PM on April 18


I add that the fiftysomethings and the millenials should not fight but should join forces - they have even more in common than the rest of the working class. The millenials have nothing, the fiftysomethings basically stand to lose everything if Even One Little Thing goes wrong, and then they'll be in the same employment boat as the millenials except older and creakier.

"Kids today are so lazy and selfish, their parents should just kick them out" and "you don't deserve your pension, the government should strip it from you and you should work til you die, selfish old person" - that's just doing the work of the 1% for them by fighting amongst ourselves.
posted by Frowner at 1:02 PM on April 18 [11 favorites]


enn said: Probably you should avoid mentioning your pension when you're trying to get sympathy from millennials, most of whom have probably never even seen an ad for a job that has one.

This is an unfair accusation since you know nothing about me. Mr gudrun and I and others at our stage of working life are actively trying to keep the pension system going at our work places for the benefit of younger workers and those starting out. Don't assume we are just worrying about ourselves. My sister, also a boomer, has no pension. I would like my niece the Millenial to have one.
posted by gudrun at 1:03 PM on April 18 [2 favorites]


That sounds great, Frowner. It would be nice if fiftysomethings voted like they wanted to join forces with young people instead of voting, like, the opposite of that.
posted by Justinian at 1:04 PM on April 18 [12 favorites]


Probably you should avoid mentioning your pension when you're trying to get sympathy from millennials, most of whom have probably never even seen an ad for a job that has one.

Yeeeah...I get the frustration but that is extra special crappy to say to anyone.
posted by Kitteh at 1:07 PM on April 18


Speaking only for myself, I can tell you one especially bitter disappointment of growing up during the 90s and 2000s: watching the Internet lead to the collapse of opportunities for writers, artists and musicians to make a living.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 1:07 PM on April 18 [7 favorites]


Hey! You! The 99% of the boomers, with your pension funds bankrupt and retirement looking like a pipe dream! Why not blame the 99% of the millennials for being lazy?

Please don't make common cause against the 1% or people who, regardless of age, have it pretty easy, who have no jobs, not because they can't find them, but because jobs are for little people in far away places.


I can't make common cause with the older generation because they refuse to turn off Fox News and stop voting Republican, and nothing I say will pierce that bubble. It doesn't matter if the old folks are bankrupt too, they are still to blame until they vote for a new direction.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:08 PM on April 18 [7 favorites]


That sounds great, Frowner. It would be nice if fiftysomethings voted like they wanted to join forces with young people instead of voting, like, the opposite of that.

Look, 47% of the fiftyish people voted for Obama and tend to vote leftishly. (I mean, for certain values of "left", but I think an awful lot of those people would be glad to vote for a lefter candidate. ) That's a huge number of people. Lots of fiftyish people are left-wing. My parents (who are actually in their sixties) are ridiculously socially left, even though they are the very picture of stodgy older folks in their regular daily lives.

One of the perpetual problems here is that everyone wants to say "everyone from this generation is like this" instead of saying "how can we make coalitions with the people who are our natural allies".

This whole "the Olds hate us, better that no one ever get a pension again" business really frosts me, and I'm not even an Old!

*yes, it sucks to use voting for President Drones as proxy data.
posted by Frowner at 1:10 PM on April 18 [13 favorites]


gudrun, I'm not sure what you think I'm accusing you of. The fact is that pension plans are much more prevalent among boomers than among my generation. This is an area (one of many) in which boomers are vastly privileged over subsequent generations, and I don't see what's wrong with pointing that out. "Hanging on until my pension kicks in" isn't some awful fate for us—it's a position many of us would love to be in.
posted by enn at 1:10 PM on April 18 [5 favorites]


Oh, things were WAY easier when we were coming up. They were pretty tough - remember Michael Moore and Downsize This and TempSlave zine? - but if you had a college degree you could get a job. Not in your field, certainly. But if you had a degree and you wanted to work, you signed up at a temp agency and you could get two or three weeks a month of work minimum and make rent, and eventually one of your postings would go permanent.

I don't remember this being the case. Then again, I graduated college after 9/11. What part of Gen X are you talking about? Or maybe I'm Gen Y? This generation naming needs to be settled once and for all.
posted by ChuckRamone at 1:15 PM on April 18


(Also, it just seems insane to me, the amount of ressentiment in this whole discourse - "oh, I hate working class blue collar democrat baby boomers because their union got them a pension deal, what can I do to help the Republicans and our corporate masters loot their pension system?" It also buys into a lot of right wing stuff. Why do people get pensions? Because their union negotiated for them and the workers and their employers paid into them, or because the unions set the floor for everyone else and companies had to offer pension plans to stay competitive.

Believe me, if you sign up with the right to help loot the pension funds, the right will turn around and smash social security. And you may say "oh, I'll never get social security anyway", but I ask you - are you prepared to support your own parents or older siblings when they are too old and frail to work and they aren't getting social security? I thank god every day that my parents are properly retired now, drawing social security and with access to medicaid, because otherwise I would be bankrupt and we'd all be on the street.
posted by Frowner at 1:15 PM on April 18 [11 favorites]


Frowner, I don't see anyone here arguing that anyone's pensions should be taken away. I would love to see a resurgence of pensions.
posted by enn at 1:19 PM on April 18 [5 favorites]


I remember when Gen X people like me were labeled "slackers" because we were such slacking slackers. They even made a movie about it. They called it Slacker.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 1:22 PM on April 18 [9 favorites]


Well, if this thread demonstrates anything it's that we can't do anything until we figure out what generation everyone belongs to, which is a pretty good example of the social atomization preventing us from making any positive changes, I think.

On the front page there's a neat post about Guaranteed Basic Income: maybe we should have some sort of GBI Union, like the Wobblies but open to everybody.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 1:23 PM on April 18 [3 favorites]


Frowner, I don't see anyone here arguing that anyone's pensions should be taken away. I would love to see a resurgence of pensions.

But everyone is always saying the equivalent of "look at those spoiled older people living in luxury - we don't get pensions". What is that except sheer resentment? I never hear people say "look at those older people - how can we get what they're having?" And I never hear people saying "oh, well, those pensions are partially from worker savings and partially from negotiated compensation, they're not just largesse, plus we know from the Chilean example that defined payout retirement systems have the best public health outcomes". I only hear people talking about pensions (and even social security) as if they're the old person equivalent of being a trustafarian.
posted by Frowner at 1:23 PM on April 18 [24 favorites]


I'm just glad I didn't have kids!
posted by jeff-o-matic at 1:24 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]


Frowner is nailing it. It is completely fair for people to point out older generations have better access to a pension and us younger folk will probably not get that, but it's being done in the tone of "why don't you shut up about your pension."

Look, we're all in the shit here, regardless of whatever generation we're labeled with. Each age group has similar fears and worries about their futures. It would be better to figure out or work towards everyone being okay instead of sniping at each other.
posted by Kitteh at 1:28 PM on April 18 [4 favorites]


But everyone is always saying the equivalent of "look at those spoiled older people living in luxury - we don't get pensions".

Who says that?
posted by Drinky Die at 1:38 PM on April 18 [2 favorites]


I wish the ship hadn't already sailed on "Generation X". I would have rather liked to have been part of the "Blank Generation." Stupid Douglas Coupland.


Oh well- I might not be part of the "Greatest Generation" but I am part of the "Xiest Generation".
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:42 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]


If you youngers don't want to be generalized about then please don't generalize about the older generations. Lifelong liberal Democrat here. Never voted Republican. Don't watch Fox news.

Yes, happy to have a pension, and I chose a lower paying job specifically because of the good pension benefits. It's hardly luxurious, but it is definitely something that is nice to have. I did that because my father told me how horrible things were for his parents during the Depression when they lost everything, and advised me to try to get some security for my old age. Also, I'm trying my best to ensure that the youngers do have some pensions as well. However, a lot of boomers don't have pensions either - my sister and brother-in-law have no pensions and they are in their 50's. The point is, if you want change, then try to make allies across the generations and see us as people, not stereotypes, and work with us for change. There are a lot of us boomers who are willing to help.

I've enjoyed the Millenials I've met as co-workers and interns. I want good things for you all. A lot of us do. You are our kids, and nieces and nephews, and the children of friends. You have interesting things to say (and tattoos, lots of tattoos!) I'm older, not a fossil.

This generational stuff is just a distraction from dealing with the way this country has lost its way. My 94 year old father (another lifelong Democrat, and his father campaigned for FDR), is really worried about you all as well. My 80 year old mother-in-law campaigned tirelessly for Obama, while dealing with terminal cancer.

We all, everyone, need to start demanding some basic benefits for our workers, like health care, pensions, and a living wage. The fight against health care was shameful. The 1% trying to gut social security is shameful. You Millenials don't have to go it alone. There are potential allies out there.
posted by gudrun at 1:47 PM on April 18 [25 favorites]


But everyone is always saying the equivalent of "look at those spoiled older people living in luxury - we don't get pensions". What is that except sheer resentment?

It's an attempt to get people to acknowledge their privilege, and that not everyone shares it, rather than use "we're all in this together" as a way to sweep that privilege under the rug.

I never hear people say "look at those older people - how can we get what they're having?" And I never hear people saying "oh, well, those pensions are partially from worker savings and partially from negotiated compensation, they're not just largesse, plus we know from the Chilean example that defined payout retirement systems have the best public health outcomes".

Well, I can't really argue with what you hear or don't hear, but I hear those things a lot. "How can we get what they're having?" is something I hear all the time, whenever retirement comes up. No one I know has any faith in defined-contribution bullshit like 401(k)s anymore. I see a lot of people, younger people, standing in picket lines in solidarity with older workers whose benefits are inconceivable to anyone entering the workforce now, fighting to help save those benefits, in the vague hope that maybe some day the momentum will shift. I don't hear anyone "in real life" decrying defined-benefit pensions (except maybe finance-industry people), despite the constant media criticism they face.

it's being done in the tone of "why don't you shut up about your pension."

Well, from the response I'm getting, clearly that's how my comment came across, and I apologize for that. "Why don't you shut up about your pension" was not what I intended to convey. I simply found it tone-deaf and frustrating for someone to come into a thread that is specifically about millennials and the challenges they face, not about boomers, and say, in effect, "you kids don't have it so bad, look at how bad we boomers have it," when in fact the situation described is one that is more likely to provoke envy than anything else in a younger person.
posted by enn at 1:54 PM on April 18 [8 favorites]


I will readily admit, it took me a long time to grow up. I graduated from Michigan State University in 1980 at the age of 23 with a freshly printed bachelor’s degree in psychology and no idea what I really wanted to do. I’d learned to play guitar in college and, intent on avoiding the drudgery of a crummy low-paying job, I now worked up a repertoire of songs large enough to enable me to make money by playing in bars and restaurants. I made enough to live on, but only because I had moved back home with my parents and didn’t have to pay for rent or groceries.

So this is probably pretty fucked up of me, but I had a sharp pang of envy right here. Man, I would have loved to have had what was basically a two year vacation making art after stressing myself out for four years to get mediocre grades amidst a sea of obnoxious premeds. But I will say I was pleasantly surprised that the rest of the article doesn't just focus on people who had options like the ones described above.
posted by en forme de poire at 2:00 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]


I do wonder if millenials of the type the article describes are less likely to have mid-life crises of the type that I'm apparently barreling towards as a grundlennial ('84).
posted by en forme de poire at 2:11 PM on April 18 [2 favorites]


No one really fits their generation stereotype. Some are pretty close, but many have such different experiences that they might as well fit some other generation. And the definitions are all fuzzy anyway. I always liked how Strauss and Howe defined generations as people in a common age range reacting to common cultural and historical events.
posted by ZeusHumms at 2:17 PM on April 18 [3 favorites]


Go back and read Time and Newsweek and the like from the early 90s. Gen-Xers were stereotyped as slacker, artist types, just as millennials are portrayed today. I mean, compare Reality Bites and Girls. Gen-Xers were accused of being the self-esteem generation, too: I mean, they were raised on Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 2:20 PM on April 18 [9 favorites]


but if you had a college degree you could get a job

The lack of jobs at least if you actually look at the unemployment rate is somewhat overstated. It's more complex than "there are no jobs" and while that's a catchy tagline, it isn't really representative of the truth.
posted by rr at 2:25 PM on April 18 [2 favorites]


I do wonder if millenials of the type the article describes are less likely to have mid-life crises of the type that I'm apparently barreling towards as a grundlennial ('84).

I assume the effects of the traditional mid-life crisis will be split evenly between the ongoing "oh my god I have zero job security and get paid shit" and "oh my god how am I going to retire I have literally nothing to my name" crises.
posted by griphus at 2:26 PM on April 18 [6 favorites]


yeah at this point my savings account has like a moth and a ball of lint in it, to say nothing of an IRA
posted by en forme de poire at 2:41 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]


I'm a Gen Xer. My husband and I, because we are super smart like that with our life choices, left our boring but comfortably remunerated jobs to go to grad school. Then we graduated into the recession, and it's taken a very long time to get back to a reasonably comfortable middle-class existence.

Being in somewhat similar financial straits to millenials has made me very, very defensive on their behalf. I find it utterly amazing that we would wreck the economy, put them through employment difficulties that most Gen Xers and baby boomers truly can't even imagine, and then publish article after article dissecting their personal failings and bemoaning their lack of work ethic. (Why is Lucy sad? Hey, I think I know. It's not because of participation trophies.)

I'm not claiming that as a generation they are entirely lacking in personal flaws or anything, but geez. If I'm drowning please send a rowboat, not a psychotherapist.
posted by gerstle at 2:52 PM on April 18 [12 favorites]


> publish article after article dissecting their personal failings and bemoaning their lack of work ethic

To be fair, it's not like millenials are a lucrative readership (afaik).
posted by postcommunism at 3:06 PM on April 18


About the article: It echoes what a phenomenal therapist said to me in 1996, when I was 21 - we give kids a lot of guidance about the changes they'll experience during adolescence, but we face just as much change, if not more, in our early 20s. We don't tell young adults that, and insufficiently prepare them to negotiate it, leaving them to flounder through it alone, en masse. (And then - he didn't say this - we criticize them in the media for it.)
posted by jocelmeow at 3:48 PM on April 18 [9 favorites]


It's not that there's a lack of jobs, it's that there's a lack of jobs that will provide the things that people who say "get a job" think they will provide.

There are fewer jobs, the jobs there are are far less secure, more of them require costly education that will either eat into savings or leave someone in debt, they pay less, and god forbid you have to go for minimum wage work, you probably will need a second one, if you're lucky enough to find a first employer who actually gives you a schedule as opposed to expecting you to be on call when they need another person to man the register.

And the unemployment number doesn't tell the whole jobs story either. The labor force participation rate among 20-24 year olds has dropped 7 percentage points since the 90's (ref). Not only are more young people unemployed, ten percent of the people who used to be working and earning money and hopefully advancing there careers have just given up on that.
posted by Zalzidrax at 4:05 PM on April 18 [4 favorites]


"I'm born in 1977, but no way am I gen x. I was in early high school when gen xers where graduating university.

I like to call us late 70 babies "nadirs" - we were the nadir of the birth rate between the baby boom (of which gen x was the downslide) and the baby boom echo of the 80s and 90s. Demographically, we're special, at least in Canada (which is all that matters).
"

I belong to the blank generation, but I can take it or leave it each time.

But Gen X, Gen Y, never spoke to me at all. I always felt outside of everything.
posted by klangklangston at 4:16 PM on April 18 [1 favorite]


do any of the Gen-Xers have advice for us millennials? That's what I'd like to read.

Yeah, study Reagan's political career & policies & strategies, and if any politician says or does something that seems like something Ronnie would've liked, don't fucking vote for 'em.
posted by soundguy99 at 4:43 PM on April 18 [17 favorites]


I was born in '82, so I'm in that limbo state some people were mentioning above.

I agree that (at least for myself) I don't seem to have many of the problems millennials have, mostly by sheer dumb luck and doing things that are now recommended.

Thanks to the above-mentioned dumb luck I decided to give college a miss (and, while I've taken some college courses I've never passed one. Not proud of this.) and went into the workforce doing tech support for some fruit company. Moved around in there and made some contacts, and I've now managed to get a job at a startup.

I've got a lot of friends of my age and less that aren't doing that well - they bounce around retail jobs and try to pay off debt and generally have a crappy time.

My little sister (born '85 or '86) did do college and is in a similar situation to me - working at a small company, doing support, and is a lot more mobile than I am (millennial thing, I guess).

I don't - can't - read articles on millennials as being about me, since I've managed to do everything I'm "supposed" to…except that, even having done so, I stand almost no chance of buying a house nearby and will need to rent (I live in the southern SF/Bay Area. Expensive as hell). I'm pretty sure I'll be OK for retirement, since I've got a 401k that I've been contributing to.

I've seen a lot of friends get stuck in job ruts, where they can only find retail jobs (25% of all jobs are retail jobs) and have problems related to the wages, the hours, etc. It's terrible, because you've got the standard issues about breaking out of retail into a "real" job.
posted by caphector at 4:59 PM on April 18


do any of the Gen-Xers have advice for us millennials? That's what I'd like to read.

Stop caring so much about the op-ed pieces written about your generation by old people. Even the ones that say positive things about your generation.
posted by 23skidoo at 5:07 PM on April 18


enn said: Probably you should avoid mentioning your pension when you're trying to get sympathy from millennials, most of whom have probably never even seen an ad for a job that has one.

So, us 99-percent "olds" are better off because we were promised one and it was a lie?

Drinky Die said: I can't make common cause with the older generation because they refuse to turn off Fox News and stop voting Republican, and nothing I say will pierce that bubble. It doesn't matter if the old folks are bankrupt too, they are still to blame until they vote for a new direction.

I voted for Jill Stein, because I was in a state where there was no chance it'd go for Romney. If that's too "Fox News" for you, I'm sorry. But feel free to stereotype.
posted by tyllwin at 5:17 PM on April 18 [3 favorites]


And the unemployment number doesn't tell the whole jobs story either

I was responding specifically to Frowner's assertion that there are no jobs - things felt economically pretty bleak at the time, but nothing like it is now. There simply isn't work, unless you want to go to South Dakota and drive a truck. and so on.

It is true that the unemployment numbers do not tell all of the story and in some ways the linked essay is quite excellent at addressing the other ways in which this is true. That said, the unemployment analysis in the link I provided (at least read the conclusion) both acknowledges that things are worse now but also details approximately how much worse things are in reality. It tells a lot more than the convenient narrative about how there are no jobs, no well paying jobs, simply no work, etc. etc.

The whining-to-reality ratio is completely out of whack, especially when accompanied by complaints about student loans since those imply a college degree. It reeks of privileged expectations. You want to know who is screwed? Non-college students (see this link).

In contrast the unemployment rate in the US for holders of a bachelors is around _3.6%_ overall and around 10% for those under 26, which on one hand is 2.7x but on the other is actually relatively low compared to other developed nations.

It sucks to graduate into a recession (hello!) but one of the things this article got very, very right is that there are many more factors involved a some of which are basically self-inflicted.
posted by rr at 6:43 PM on April 18


In contrast the unemployment rate in the US for holders of a bachelors is around _3.6%_ overall and around 10% for those under 26, which on one hand is 2.7x but on the other is actually relatively low compared to other developed nations.

The trouble is - the unemployment rate doesn't really tell the tale.

In 1990, you could buy a gallon of gas for ~75 cents and a 20oz Coke for 50 cents. Now ~15 years later, gas is 3.50 and a coke is 2 bucks.

In 1990, if you graduated with a degree, you could expect to find a job paying about 30k per year. Now, ~15 yeas later, if you graduate with a degree, you can expect to find a job paying about 30k per year.

In other words - the cost of everything has gone up, while the cost of our time has fallen in real terms.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:12 PM on April 18 [8 favorites]


More like $44,000 and actually your claim doesn't even appear to have a basis in reality at all when compared to 1990.. It is true that wages have been suppressed but the lazy way in which everything is painted with total bleakness as an entirely external factor is really tiring. Also, as I was driving in 1990 (which, btw, is a pretty terrible choice for picking a benchmark for gasoline, if you remember a little something called the invasion of Kuwait), if gas was $0.75 cents, you were very lucky. $1.15 maybe. And a can of coke was $0.50, not 20oz.

There is no need to exaggerate to note that kids have it tough. The exaggeration makes it seem like people feel the need to overcompensate for something when discussing this topic. This is what I mean by the whining-to-reality ratio.
posted by rr at 7:33 PM on April 18


Hi, late stage boomer here. I went to college in my late 30's to mid forties. It took me 6 years to get my bfa, and honestly, If the student loan people hadn't told me that I couldn't have more money, I'd still be there. I wish I had something constructive to tell you kids but really, all I have is try to be happy, you'll be dead a long time. People have been complaining about the younger generation since the first civilization. I got lucky and got a job at the school I went to just as I was about to graduate, so I'd say, get lucky. Also If you wait as long as I did to go to college, you might just enjoy it as much as if you hadn't. So, have good lives. Haters gonna hate, etc.
posted by evilDoug at 8:35 PM on April 18


Boomers ran from 45-64, GenXers from 65-84, and Millenials from 85-04.

If that's correct, I'm smack in the middle of the GenX cohort. (I remember, and remember resenting, all of the articles about slackers at the time -- I lacked the trust fund that one would have needed to be a real slacker.) My parents are boomers, and although they have done ok in a middle class kind of way (house, car, food on the table), they lost huge amounts of their savings in the recent recession and my father is still working well past when he had hoped to retire. He graduated from college into a recession and lost out on what should have been key career years, also, which is part of why he is feeling the pinch now. So although Boomers as a whole have done better than younger cohorts, that hides a lot of stress and struggle and people barely making it. Around town I see a lot of boomer-aged people who are very visibly poor, for example.

Theoretically I should have done great, since wikipedia tells me "The 1990s were the longest period of growth in American history." But I (along with a lot of my friends) missed most of that growth by being in college and graduate school (along with time in the Peace Corps, in the military, or similar years outside of the main economy).

do any of the Gen-Xers have advice for us millennials? That's what I'd like to read.

Economically my twenties were a total write-off -- probably the only smart thing I did was avoid debt and travel a lot so I have good stories now. Now I have a reasonably stable middle class lifestyle, but it feels very contingent and I'm constantly aware of how quickly it could vanish. But at the same time, the economically useless ways I spent my twenties (school and travel, basically) have turned out to be surprisingly useful now, probably more so than grinding away in one of the industries that laid everyone off in 2001. I'm not sure there is as much value in following the "safe" path as there might once have been.

Oh, things were WAY easier when we were coming up. They were pretty tough - remember Michael Moore and Downsize This and TempSlave zine? - but if you had a college degree you could get a job. Not in your field, certainly. But if you had a degree and you wanted to work, you signed up at a temp agency and you could get two or three weeks a month of work minimum and make rent, and eventually one of your postings would go permanent.

That was true for a narrow window in my twenties, but hasn't been the case for the majority of my adult, working life. It also wasn't the case when my parents were in their early twenties -- they had to do the supposedly Millennial thing of moving back in with their parents several times before they found a viable path. These things are really contingent on when (and where) you hit those years, more than on big generational averages.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:48 PM on April 18 [3 favorites]


Also, as I was driving in 1990 (which, btw, is a pretty terrible choice for picking a benchmark for gasoline, if you remember a little something called the invasion of Kuwait), if gas was $0.75 cents, you were very lucky. $1.15 maybe. And a can of coke was $0.50, not 20oz.

Ok, lets go with your numbers - the contravene my experience (graduate HS in 1990, enlisted in Marines shortly after), but prices vary somewhat with locality.

So, Gas was 1.50 and cokes were $1.00 even.

Now gas at the station down the street from me is $3.89. Cokes are $2.10

So, more than 2x as much. Agreed ?

By your own chart - a (male) college grad in 1990 could expect to make ~20 bucks per hour in 1990 (~40k/yr). and in 2014 a (male) college grad can expect to make.... 22 dollars per hour (~44k).

A college grad should expect to be making north of 80k per year these days - as a starting salary - assuming that salaries kept up with inflation the same as everything else.

That has not happened. Not even close. You can cry whiner-ratio all you want, but the basic fact rings true.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:02 PM on April 18 [3 favorites]


Those numbers are in ___2010___ dollars. They are ___already___ adjusted. Per the chart, the millenials have it better than anyone from 1990-1995 had it (an increasingly tough period) and even have it better than the 2003's (where you can't make a cost of living argument).
posted by rr at 10:32 PM on April 18


Sometimes I realize I live in a different world. My impression of Millennials is that they are very straight laced, responsible, and believe in the system compared to previous generations, or at people I knew growing up. But the criticisms they’re getting seem the same as every generation has gotten. The "I don’t want to grow up" thing, yeah it’s annoying, but it’s a continuation of a trend more than something new.

I was born in ’63, a bit in between. I don’t know anyone with a pension. That’s like a myth to me. I don’t think I know anyone that went to college. I know some people who are very well off because they worked hard and/or got lucky, and a lot of people who are a few paychecks from broke in their 40’s and 50’s. But the idea of going to school and getting a job with security and retirement has been foreign to me my whole life. I don’t know this world where everyone had that before the last 15 years.

I don’t know if the numbers agree with me, but it seems there was a bit of a con going on the last decade or so that insisted everyone had to go to college to get anywhere, and that it was a sure thing investment. Many people I know, myself included, rejected this idea 20-30 years ago. We just couldn’t see how it was going to pay off. Some of us were right, and for some of us it didn’t work out so well. Some of us got fucked up a lot.

The difference between we Gen Xrs and you Millenials is that while we both got screwed my generation never expected anything better.

This rings true for me. Many of us joke that we never had a good plan because we never expected to live this long, or past 25 really. I didn’t say it was a funny joke.
posted by bongo_x at 10:32 PM on April 18


I never hear people say "look at those older people - how can we get what they're having?"

This. A billion times this. I worked under a boss who negotiated working from home one day a week. Everyone hated it, and thought it was unfair, and thought she shouldn't get special treatment. I would ask people who complained behind her back why they wanted her to lose that benefit rather than, say, negotiate for a similar benefit for themselves. I got more befuddled looks than I could count. The notion that we somehow should take away from our peers that have slightly more, but the big earners are of limits is beyond me. Why would you fight for taking away someone's benefits and not demand the same treatment? Too scary?

We're just crabs in a pot.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 10:37 PM on April 18 [11 favorites]


Per the chart, the millenials have it better than anyone from 1990-1995 had it (an increasingly tough period) and even have it better than the 2003's.

Per the chart, Millenials are making 10-20% as much, while the Cost of Living has gone up 200%

You keep using the phrase "they have it better", but I do not think it means what you think it means.

From fine article:
"Entry-level wages of college graduates have fallen," said Lawrence Mishel, a labor market economist and president of EPI. "People coming out of college now are getting jobs that pay less than what older brothers and sisters got when they finished college."
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:48 PM on April 18


Most of the young people that I have met are smarter than I was when I was their age.
posted by ovvl at 11:42 PM on April 18


"Also, as I was driving in 1990 (which, btw, is a pretty terrible choice for picking a benchmark for gasoline, if you remember a little something called the invasion of Kuwait), if gas was $0.75 cents, you were very lucky. $1.15 maybe. And a can of coke was $0.50, not 20oz."

When I took a road trip across the country in 1998, gas was $1.25 in Michigan but $.89 in Texas. A can of Coke was $.75 then.
posted by klangklangston at 3:16 AM on April 19


The cheapest I ever remember gas being (when I paid for it ) was in 1999. It was 98 cents, and even at the time I remember thinking how crazy cheap that was.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 3:36 AM on April 19


Gas has gone from $2.99 to $3.47 in my locale in just the past couple of months. Apparently I am the only one I know complaining about this.

I am a gen x-er college dropout with a low pay at a state job that has a pension. Lol let's not kid ourselves, it will be raided before I put in my 17 years and can pull any out. Of course the 74-year-old woman who sits next to me cannot afford to retire. She has multiple 40-something kids spongin off of her. Yeah, great, her house is paid off, but it is 40 miles away from where we work.

Is anyone winning at this game? I want to know. I wish I could emulate them.
posted by marble at 4:22 AM on April 19 [2 favorites]


Also let it be said, that I do my job with the sort of wizard office job skills I learned while I was in middle school. And I have a quota. Oh sorry, "Goals". Apparently quota is a dirty word. I get written up if I do not meet my "goals".
posted by marble at 4:28 AM on April 19 [1 favorite]


Per the chart, Millenials are making 10-20% as much, while the Cost of Living has gone up 200%

Mixing real and nominal dollars is no way to go through life, son.

In real dollars, millennials are making about 10 percent more than early x-ers working in 1990. There's no point comparing to a cost of living change because the CPI did that already.

In nominal terms, the cost of living has increased by 81% since 1990, while starting salaries for new college-educated male workers have increased by about 83%.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:50 AM on April 19 [3 favorites]


ROU_Xebophobe: would factoring in employment rates and/or cost of education change the story? Or looking at cost-of-living in specific locations?

I'm actually curious: anecdotally, I know that rents & property prices in my city have outstripped wages (increasing the cost of living quite a bit), and also that jobs are very hard to find in specific fields (eg public school teaching), but not necessarily in all fields or all regions.
posted by jb at 7:39 AM on April 19


and are there significant differences between male and female workers?
posted by jb at 7:39 AM on April 19


Wow, that article is crap. All those words to argue for "moar education." Ugh.

Quite honestly it's hard to see how young American workers deserve anything at all other than to be predated. Let's face it: these kids have very little to offer in a market that is exploding with supply. There's probably negative real, long-term value for knowledge-driven firms to hire college graduates right now. Sure, you could pick up some plucky graduate and train her and invest in her and hope she pays off -- or you could take your hilariously cheap money (either borrowed or earned) and invest in straight up capex or train your existing workforce (which is likely not dropping dead any time soon) and thereby become even more efficient. Or you could just let it sit in the money market earning .1% and save it for a rainy day and, let's face it, after the GFC there will, sooner or later, be another rainy day.

Now, normally, when a society cannot productively absorb its young workers the government would step in to take that losing trade and thereby clear the market eg you'd actually expect the government to be the "buyer of last resort." (And in fact this is the only reason people form governments, to solve such collective action problems.) Indeed during the GFC the government wasted absolutely no time to rush in and be the buyer of last resort par excellence and buy all sorts of worthless shit from the troubled financial institutions and thereby save virtually all of them (except Lehman Bros which nobody really liked anyways).

We might ask why the banks were worth saving but a generation of plucky, young over-educated Millenials aren't and we might conduct all sorts of sophisticated sociological or historical or philosophical analysis... but it'd all be for naught. The answer is much more straightforwards: the government saved the banks because the banks spend $100+ million dollars a year on lobbying. How much do the Millenials spend?
posted by nixerman at 8:26 AM on April 19 [2 favorites]


Per the chart, Millenials are making 10-20% as much, while the Cost of Living has gone up 200%

You don't seem to understand how normalized dollar value works. Let me explain it to you. The dollar values in that chart are adjusted for CPI which means that things like the cost of living are accounted for in that graph, at least to the extent that you trust CPI. This includes things like the cost of a coke and the cost of gasoline and also things like the cost of a car, the cost of rent, and so on.

CPI has already been accounted for in that chart. And what say you about 2003/2004? Has the cost of living gone up 200% since then, when new hires were making less than current graduates?

This is the exact immune-to-facts exaggeration I'm talking about.

What we see is that graduates now make a starting salary that is higher in real terms than any time since 1979 except for a brief recent period corresponding to the dotcom bubble. Unemployment right now is significantly lower than it was in the early 80s and slightly lower than 1990-1992. If you really want to make a case that the millennial are unfairly screwed, the "no jobs" claim and starting wages simply do not stand up to actual investigation.

Student loans sure do, though.

it's hard to see how young American workers deserve anything at all other than to be predated

Yeah. This has totally changed in the last 30... 100 years. Right.
posted by rr at 9:56 AM on April 19


My personal gripe about those demographic studies: the only category doing worse than the previous generation is white men. Granted there are enough of them, it skews all the numbers. Women and POC are doing better. More kids are going to college, so more people have access to jobs previously accessible only to those privileged enough to get a college degree 30 years ago, so the status quo has been spread a bit thinner. But isn't that the definition of First World Problems?

That's no excuse for us to not strive for better. We're a ways from full employment and do we really want to be upstaged by other countries (which implies non-Americans don't deserve economic success). But come on, do we have to imply it's the dark ages to want better for ourselves? Sure, maybe white men might need a leg up like the rest of us, but given the systemic privilege they've had forever, should we automatically consider their plateau while the rest catch up a universally reviled thing?
posted by politikitty at 10:06 AM on April 19


do any of the Gen-Xers have advice for us millennials? That's what I'd like to read

Same as the advice GenX (to which I belong) by and large didn't want to hear and thus didn't listen to:

Anyone who is unfortunate enough to be born at the wrong time will face a difficult time making up the gap as they proceed in their career. Entering the workforce during a recession (and not all GenX and not all millenials have) permanently depresses your wages relative to your peers who entered a few years before or a few years after and you will need to pay attention to this.

The second is to be aware of the pileup in front of you. Boomers are still not leaving their jobs. For GenX this meant that there were fewer slots for advancement freed up by exiting boomers which in turn slowed their career advancement. If your career plan requires obtaining a relatively rare position (academia especially, already discussed on mefi to death, but also "vice president" and the like) you are either going to need to fundamentally be exceptional and work exceptionally hard or you will not get there. Because behind the boomers there's the pile of GenXers and GenYers who are also waiting.

Everything else is less important and will be fixed by growing up. The essay linked addresses a lot of the Millenial-specific problems in this. Identity and work overly combined in an almost TV-trope-like way, constant indecision, inability to focus on the bottom line due to all sorts of weird distractions that they pretend to have no control over and no power to change, all of which are a sort of extreme naiveté and inability to focus on a specific task. These will all fix themselves for the ones who make it and wont for the ones that don't.
posted by rr at 10:09 AM on April 19


The second is to be aware of the pileup in front of you. Boomers are still not leaving their jobs. For GenX this meant that there were fewer slots for advancement freed up by exiting boomers which in turn slowed their career advancement.

This is a big deal. I am almost always the youngest person in the room, and as I said before I am smack in the middle of Gen X. (In fact, I largely supervise people older than myself, mostly from the tail end of the boomers.) They all want to retire, but their 401k's and other savings (including house equity) got cut in half (or worse) a few years ago, so they are sticking it out rather than taking the early retirements that they had planned up until the crash.

If they had secure pensions or untouched 401k's, they'd all be buying RVs and hitting the road, and I'd all of a sudden be the old guy in charge of hiring a bunch of eager millennials. The boomers I work with aren't still going to work every day because they love it so much, nor because they have a deep and nasty desire to screw over the youngs -- they got hosed big time in the financial meltdown and holding onto their jobs is their only lifeline.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:56 AM on April 19 [6 favorites]


Unemployment right now is significantly lower than it was in the early 80s and slightly lower than 1990-1992. If you really want to make a case that the millennial are unfairly screwed, the "no jobs" claim and starting wages simply do not stand up to actual investigation.

Smells like bs. But good choice selecting the early 80s as your starting point: the change from one severe recession to another is an interesting kind of trough-to-trough measurement. Real wages for for American males have gone virtually nowhere in fifty years. They are certainly not in line with the productivity increases. Living standards are definitely down. As for "starting wage" it's not even clear what this might mean. Is the amount that paper boys and fast food workers are paid?

And before I was so unceremoniously pulled away for lunch I did want to emphasize:

The only criticism I think can be fairly leveled at us is "Why haven't you people revolted already!?"

That's why it's hard to take all the whining and belly-aching seriously. In the past young people desperate for work were more than willing to experiment. Mass emigration, war, political revolution, rapid technological and scientific innovation, widespread fraud -- they tried it all and then some. When society for whatever reasons failed to provide a stable income and security they were willing to entertain enormous risk to do so for themselves. What's sad is not that young workers are so upset to discover that they will not enjoy the painless, "low- hanging" returns their Boomer parents reaped (and then reaped some more -- the Boomers probably ought to be called the Locust generation as it's not clear that they will even leave a viable planet behind); it's that we haven't seen the corresponding increase in risk and innovation you'd expect to accompany diminishing returns.

But I think it's not too late. There are already many encouraging changes out there -- the decrease in automobile ownership, the "free culture" of Napster, the willingness to put off kids and Church combined with a real faith in technology -- and I'm sure there are more to come. It would be a shame if, like some second-generation cargo cult, the young'ins gave up and decided to work longer hours, study harder, or surrender even more to their elites in the vain hope of recreating the past. No, now is the time to think different.
posted by nixerman at 12:34 PM on April 19


Smells like bs. But good choice selecting the early 80s as your starting point: the change from one severe recession to another is an interesting kind of trough-to-trough measurement. Real wages for for American males have gone virtually nowhere in fifty years. They are certainly not in line with the productivity increases. Living standards are definitely down. As for "starting wage" it's not even clear what this might mean. Is the amount that paper boys and fast food workers are paid?

Well, I guess actual numbers don't stand up to blind assertions and "smell" abilities.

Yes, wages have gone nowhere (for _forty_ years) but they haven't gone down appreciably, either, which is not the narrative that is being used to explain away the situation with the millenials. If you want to talk about why wages have been flat despite productivity increases or the increasing stratification, that's fine and we'd probably agree there, but it has nothing at all to do with the whining and entitlement that is the basis of most of the claims about the millenials having it especially tough.

Also, I did not pick the 80s as a starting point. I'm using it, the 1990s, and the early 2000s to demonstrate that no, the millenials do not in fact have it uniquely rough despite the rather desperate attempts to spin the discussion and make it seem otherwise.
posted by rr at 12:59 PM on April 19 [1 favorite]


This is a big deal. I am almost always the youngest person in the room, and as I said before I am smack in the middle of Gen X. (In fact, I largely supervise people older than myself, mostly from the tail end of the boomers.) They all want to retire, but their 401k's and other savings (including house equity) got cut in half (or worse) a few years ago, so they are sticking it out rather than taking the early retirements that they had planned up until the crash.

As an addendum, don't be fooled by the upcoming feint. The stock market boom is starting to make the same boomers (the bottom two cohorts who are much less likely to have pensions at all and who are not blind to the question of the reliability of those pensions to exist in ten years) feel somewhat more confident. We are in the midst of another bubble, especially on the coasts, and the aftermath will end with them tightening their grip and hanging around to try and make up their losses.

Just like 2001.
posted by rr at 1:02 PM on April 19


The First Person to Talk to Millennials Like Human Beings Will Run the World
posted by homunculus at 1:13 AM on April 20


That's why it's hard to take all the whining and belly-aching seriously. In the past young people desperate for work were more than willing to experiment. Mass emigration, war, political revolution, rapid technological and scientific innovation, widespread fraud -- they tried it all and then some. When society for whatever reasons failed to provide a stable income and security they were willing to entertain enormous risk to do so for themselves. What's sad is not that young workers are so upset to discover that they will not enjoy the painless, "low- hanging" returns their Boomer parents reaped (and then reaped some more -- the Boomers probably ought to be called the Locust generation as it's not clear that they will even leave a viable planet behind); it's that we haven't seen the corresponding increase in risk and innovation you'd expect to accompany diminishing returns.

I strongly doubt this is "whining". The reason why young people aren't willing to experiment now when they were before isn't because of any moral failing - it's because of the size of the Student Loan Millstone around everyone's necks is way bigger. And that saps way more of your mental energy than you'd think.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:19 AM on April 20


I did that because my father told me how horrible things were for his parents during the Depression when they lost everything, and advised me to try to get some security for my old age.

I wonder if this is the real difference between Gen X and Millenials, here. I'm Gen X, most of my friend's parents were Boomers, and what I remember most of all was the rebellion against the Boomers. We were all tired of parents/the olds saying "Just be free, man!" And a lot more sympathetic to listen to the grandparent's generation, who were talking about "And then everyone starved. Get a job you can hold onto. Get benefits. Get pensions."

I mean, that's one of the reasons why I joined the Army. I didn't dream at night of being a soldier - I knew that if I survived, a soldier would offer me a pension after 20 years of work, and I wanted to get a pension under my belt before facing the big bad world that could break you. Despite the fact that at a certain point my dad was rolling in dough and talking about how you could just swing a cat and find opportunities and money falling from the skies at you. I just didn't believe him. My friends who were of an age to start questioning when the 80s hit didn't believe their parents either. And so I think there were actually a lot of us who sat down and said, "Where can we get a job? I want to put money away in a sock."

Advice for Millenials? Ignore the bullshit your parents told you. Ignore the bullshit you learned in school. Not everyone is going to succeed, so instead of bemoaning it, figure out how you, personally, can succeed and grab it with both hands. Don't sit down and figure out the best way for your work to make you happy. If you do something you love, you will only grow to hate it as your financial security becomes dependent on it. Sit down and figure out what your skills are, and how to turn them into filthy lucre. Money is for security, and food is for survival. Don't waste your security on bullshit "experiences" or on organic fair-trade sea-salt-encrusted bacon kombucha. Put your money in the bank and leave it there.

Accept that you may be fucked. Don't blithely assume you'll make it through - determine to spit in their eye and take it.
posted by corb at 6:45 AM on April 20 [3 favorites]


I strongly doubt this is "whining". The reason why young people aren't willing to experiment now when they were before isn't because of any moral failing - it's because of the size of the Student Loan Millstone around everyone's necks is way bigger. And that saps way more of your mental energy than you'd think.

It does not seem to be that they aren't willing to experiment or invest energy in things. The millenials I know have spent a lot of effort to move to SF, for example, and are now complaining about the cost of living and competition for jobs (for people with their degrees, anyway). This has come as a surprise to them despite... well, it being one of the most reported issues I can think of. They complain.

Once you strip away the convenient fictions ("no jobs", "making less") it is about more than just the student loan debt.

The student loan debt was acquired, in part, due to the severe conflict of interests of certain professionals, political interests and frankly their parents (who had vicarious childish fantasies about how things would unfold) who propagandized education as a social/spiritual/experiential thing rather than a practical career-oriented one so extremely bad choices were made in terms of dollars in debt acquired for their degrees. Most of the millenials that I know, to their credit, have figured this out: they feel rather suckered in the "why did I do that?" sense. They're still stuck with it.

The issue is broader. A rather easy life growing up, parents who cleared the way for them, in some cases all the way through college (helicopter parents? snowplow parents) has resulted in greatly extended adolescence and a general lack of coming to grips with growing up. That's what the linked essay is about. They need time to grow up because they didn't grow up in college and we need to give it time. It has nothing to do with the loan debt.

The other half of this, that the essay doesn't really get at, is the expectation of having irrationally convenient lives - live in cool places, work cool jobs and rapidly become Important People. The expectations are incredibly out of touch with reality. Again, they need to grow up and it has nothing to do with debt.

They should be angry and focused, either on escaping the trap on their own or as a political body. Instead they are sort of angry and not focused at all. On anything. Coddling them by giving them excuses is not helping them now any more than it did previously.
posted by rr at 9:57 AM on April 20 [1 favorite]


I wonder if this is the real difference between Gen X and Millenials, here. I'm Gen X, most of my friend's parents were Boomers, and what I remember most of all was the rebellion against the Boomers. We were all tired of parents/the olds saying "Just be free, man!" And a lot more sympathetic to listen to the grandparent's generation, who were talking about "And then everyone starved. Get a job you can hold onto. Get benefits. Get pensions."

I am Gen-x and this was not my experience. I wish to god it had been, actually - more encouragement in my passion would have given me more courage to take risks and possibly achieve something, as opposed to second-guessing whether that writing job I want to go for would let me contribute as much to my IRA as the boring secretarial job I hate and which depresses me. Not all Boomers were hippie free spirits - none of my friends' parents were "just be free, man" hippies. In fact, the only place I've seen that is on Family Ties.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:20 AM on April 20 [4 favorites]


I'm Gen X, most of my friend's parents were Boomers, and what I remember most of all was the rebellion against the Boomers. We were all tired of parents/the olds saying "Just be free, man!" And a lot more sympathetic to listen to the grandparent's generation, who were talking about "And then everyone starved. Get a job you can hold onto. Get benefits. Get pensions."

I'm with EmpressCallipygos, here - as an older GenX (b. 1968), my parents and those of my friends were mostly the Silent Generation, so I never heard much (well, any, really) of the whole hippie-esque "just be free" thing from them. Almost the opposite; since they'd mostly managed to land virtually-guaranteed-for-life jobs, they figured that was just How Things Are, Forever And Ever, Amen, and were often confused and upset when us GenX'ers either didn't want or couldn't find those kind of jobs.

But maybe our differences just raise the point that 20-year "generations" are perhaps not the best metric to use, especially post 1950's - our culture could be changing too quickly. Somewhere I read a bit where someone made a point that GenX should actually be divided into two halves (either Atari/Nintendo or arcade videogames/home videogames, which is, admittedly, kind of reductive, but it did cleverly buttress the writer's point), that there was enough change in culture over the course of a decade that people supposedly in the same generation could have very different childhood & young adult experiences.
posted by soundguy99 at 12:06 PM on April 20 [5 favorites]


> But maybe our differences just raise the point that 20-year "generations" are perhaps not the best metric to use, especially post 1950's

For a while I thought 'millennial' referred to tweens and younger. 2001 and 2003 both seem like they would be major demarcators, generation wise.

And "generation" really makes sense only when it's defined in reaction to a major event which significantly and primarily effects otherwise disparate people of a certain age range, no? Mostly wars. Otherwise, what sense does it make to group a 22 year old raised upper middle class in Connecticut vs. middle class in Oklahoma or third generation immigrant in LA vs. first generation immigrant in Seattle or etc. etc..

It could be that the 2008 crash is the unifying experience for millennials, but it still feels that anything short of an existential threat like a draft the Depression, or a tremendous change in expectations/parameters for day-to-day life (cars, the internet) isn't quite enough to corral everyone 15-30 into the same demographic.

Nor does it seem absurd to count the GFC as a key element of the boomer's experience moreso than the millennials; the boomers have their narrative of ready opportunity and wealth and the promise of social uplift, still available even amongst wars, civil strife and the possibility of nuclear friggin' annihilation, and you worry and work and then communism's dead and you won and you finish out the last decade or so of work before retiring and then just as you're settling down to a pleasant middle class twilight (or upper middle class even! The dream is alive!) boom, turns out the world is still strange and dangerous and then your retirement tanks and you'd better get back in the office and make the rich (and financially untouched) richer.

I mean, that's the vibe I get.
posted by postcommunism at 1:22 PM on April 20


Thomas Piketty and Millennial Marxists on the Scourge of Inequality: Capitalism’s new critics take on an economics run amok.
posted by homunculus at 3:15 PM on April 20


That's why it's hard to take all the whining and belly-aching seriously. In the past young people desperate for work were more than willing to experiment. Mass emigration, war, political revolution, rapid technological and scientific innovation, widespread fraud -- they tried it all and then some. When society for whatever reasons failed to provide a stable income and security they were willing to entertain enormous risk to do so for themselves.
Ummmm. I mean.... Are you serious?

And I can't come up with general links for tech and science innovation because there are so many it's insane and there are so many articles about who's working on what and who's creating mergers with who that there's at least 1 new news story EVERY DAY. The one that stands out right now is, you know, Google...the one that put out Google Glass? And self-driving mapping vans? And the one that just bought the in-home thermostat monitoring company, Nest? They bought a company to create contacts (the ones for your eyes!) with the same tech. And there were already companies with military interests looking at that at least 5 years ago (one of those contractor sites I could never find again heh).

I know that all these door locking rings and plastic-compost-eating-chemicals and instant say-hi-to-your-Mom-for-me-*wink*-*wink* iDevices and moving to make same sex/marijuana legal and things have made us jaded as a whole, but I'm only 25 and I'm saying HOLY FUCK THE JETPACKS ARE COMING. I do hope you'll forgive me, but reading your paragraph made me throw up in my mouth a little.

It's not the "not trying hard enough" thing that prevents a lot of young 'uns from getting jobs right now. Christ, go look at Kickstarter for example. Look at all of the failed smart and good idea tech, at least.
posted by DisreputableDog at 3:55 AM on April 21 [3 favorites]


Also, cause people tend to misinterpret online: that song has so many facets of commentary in relation to your seemingly blind vision of the next gen, I don't even know where to start.

Wouldn't think I'd have to spell that out, but gosh the internet keeps proving me wrong on that front. Just wanted to be sure.
posted by DisreputableDog at 4:06 AM on April 21


It's not the "not trying hard enough" thing that prevents a lot of young 'uns from getting jobs right now. Christ, go look at Kickstarter for example.

This is a very, very good point. Saying that the Milennials "aren't trying things" in an era when there are no less than THREE crowdfunding sites devoted to letting people drum up capital for the idea they're trying is completely barking mad.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:56 AM on April 21 [2 favorites]


Kickstarter and Indiegogo are millenials?

And don't represent the sort of "give me money so I can do this cool thing that I'm not otherwise prepared for" attitude?
posted by rr at 10:18 AM on April 21


And I can't come up with general links for tech and science innovation because there are so many it's insane and there are so many articles about who's working on what and who's creating mergers with who that there's at least 1 new news story EVERY DAY. The one that stands out right now is, you know, Google...the one that put out Google Glass?

What do a bunch of boomer and genX companies have to do with the thread?
posted by rr at 10:19 AM on April 21


Kickstarter and Indiegogo are millenials?

Are you looking at who created it or the people who use it? The people who use it is who I'm talking about.

And don't represent the sort of "give me money so I can do this cool thing that I'm not otherwise prepared for" attitude?

Hey, nixerman was the one who was all "back in my day the young people were willing to try all sorts of crazy things in the effort to see if it got them money". We're not talking about people succeeding in getting capital, we're talking about people being willing to go out on a limb and try out an idea in the first place.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:27 AM on April 21


Are you looking at who created it or the people who use it? The people who use it is who I'm talking about.

Why do you think these are significant %age of millenials and thus relevant?

Use it how? As consumers? How is being a consumer evidence of trying anything?

As project founders? Why do you think the companies being pitched are by millenials? Palmer Luckey is unusual, most of the game projects are experienced people in their late 30s to late 40s. Most of the tech projects and many of the design projects are the same.

The art projects film projects, millionth slim wallet, deck of cards, and other hobbies - who knows? But none of those are viable solutions. They are like a variant of Etsy.
posted by rr at 11:07 AM on April 21


"Also, I did not pick the 80s as a starting point. I'm using it, the 1990s, and the early 2000s to demonstrate that no, the millenials do not in fact have it uniquely rough despite the rather desperate attempts to spin the discussion and make it seem otherwise."

Yeah, but you're pretty full of shit on that one, unless you're arguing against a "uniquely" straw man. See: BLS and extend out the dates to cover the last 50 years. '84ish is the only time that there's been higher unemployment in the last 50 years.

(Recent grad unemployment tracks well to overall unemployment.)

And ignoring loan debt as related to unemployment is just willful stupidity, especially when coupled with some moralizing sturm und drang about how millennials just need to grow up.
posted by klangklangston at 12:03 PM on April 21 [1 favorite]


I gave you a link previously to BLS data that you are welcome to look at. You do not get to choose to look at the overall unemployment rate when better numbers are available that more accurately describe the situation.

Furthermore And ignoring loan debt as related to unemployment who is ignoring loan debt? I've mentioned it in every single post. College level unemployment and starting wage depression are both more fiction than fact.

There is an invincible wall of voluntary ignorance on this topic (see "no jobs" "wages lower" etc. etc. arguments above) in a weird attempt to coddle the millenials even more than has already been done. All this is accomplishing is delaying their growing up even more.
posted by rr at 12:14 PM on April 21


Sorry, Corb, you've once again latched onto some pretty weird beliefs about society in general and your own cohort in particular:

"I wonder if this is the real difference between Gen X and Millenials, here. I'm Gen X, most of my friend's parents were Boomers, and what I remember most of all was the rebellion against the Boomers. We were all tired of parents/the olds saying "Just be free, man!" And a lot more sympathetic to listen to the grandparent's generation, who were talking about "And then everyone starved. Get a job you can hold onto. Get benefits. Get pensions.""

None of the Gen Xers I knew thought there'd be pensions and benefits. And none of my parents said, "Just be free, man." In fact, since the boomers went from hippies to yuppies, they were the ones concerned with pensions and benefits. Check out voting patterns and priorities: Boomers are still the ones voting most heavily on pensions and benefits.

I mean, that's one of the reasons why I joined the Army. I didn't dream at night of being a soldier - I knew that if I survived, a soldier would offer me a pension after 20 years of work, and I wanted to get a pension under my belt before facing the big bad world that could break you. Despite the fact that at a certain point my dad was rolling in dough and talking about how you could just swing a cat and find opportunities and money falling from the skies at you. I just didn't believe him. My friends who were of an age to start questioning when the 80s hit didn't believe their parents either. And so I think there were actually a lot of us who sat down and said, "Where can we get a job? I want to put money away in a sock." "

Were there? There seem to have been a lot more who were interested in cheap credit and consumerism, just like usual. I think you're generalizing based on, at best, an idiosyncratic view of history and economics.

"Advice for Millenials? Ignore the bullshit your parents told you. Ignore the bullshit you learned in school. Not everyone is going to succeed, so instead of bemoaning it, figure out how you, personally, can succeed and grab it with both hands. Don't sit down and figure out the best way for your work to make you happy. If you do something you love, you will only grow to hate it as your financial security becomes dependent on it."

Hmm. Nope. I've grown to hate things that I enjoyed doing when they became jobs, but that's not really true across the board: I know a lot of people who love what they do, both in traditional and untraditional career paths, and have been doing it long enough to know the difference. I agree about not seating all of your identity in work, but that's because I don't want to work on the insane levels that some of my peers do in order to get ahead. I like doing political work, but I know I can only do 80-hour weeks for a little while before I burn out, so I avoid those jobs.

Sit down and figure out what your skills are, and how to turn them into filthy lucre. Money is for security, and food is for survival. Don't waste your security on bullshit "experiences" or on organic fair-trade sea-salt-encrusted bacon kombucha. Put your money in the bank and leave it there.

Why? So the next bank crash can happen? I save moderately well, and my only debt is student debt, but railing against experiences rather than property is just facile yobboism posing as wisdom.

Accept that you may be fucked. Don't blithely assume you'll make it through - determine to spit in their eye and take it."

See, and this would be a lot more convincing if you actually thought out what is in your economic interest and supported it, but you consistently rail against things like minimum wage increases and confiscatory taxes being plowed back into the economy. It's some sort of cargo cult Millennial neo-liberalism that justifies fucking over the people around you in the name of hard-headed individualism and realism, while simultaneously making both you and the people around you worse off in total.
posted by klangklangston at 12:15 PM on April 21


Use it how? As consumers? How is being a consumer evidence of trying anything?

As project founders? Why do you think the companies being pitched are by millenials? Palmer Luckey is unusual, most of the game projects are experienced people in their late 30s to late 40s. Most of the tech projects and many of the design projects are the same.

The art projects film projects, millionth slim wallet, deck of cards, and other hobbies - who knows? But none of those are viable solutions. They are like a variant of Etsy.


I have no idea why you're even taking umbrage at this, since I was responding to something someone else said. But since we're here: I was speaking about project founders, which include film projects, slim wallets, decks of cards, and the other things which you dismiss as being a "variant of Etsy". In fact, though, Etsy is yet another platform which proves my point - that rather than being lazy layabouts unwilling to try things, as someone else claimed, there is copious evidence of millennials trying to launch a lot of different projects on kick starter, indiegogo, etsy, and other places. Whether or not they succeed or are good is not germane to the question of whether they are even bothering to make the attempt.

I mean, it sounds like you think the bulk of what they're making is shit, but even if if is shit, you can't make shit if you're sitting around with your thumb up your ass. And "there's plenty of evidence they aren't sitting around with their thumb up their ass" is the argument I'm making.

If you want to get into a conversation about the quality of a typical project, that's a different conversation entirely and a different point.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:25 PM on April 21


In nominal terms, the cost of living has increased by 81% since 1990, while starting salaries for new college-educated male workers have increased by about 83%.

Is this averaged out across the country or something? because this is just markedly not true in seattle. the $500 a month two bedroom apartment i lived in with my parents in 1995 costs close to $2000 to rent now in 2014, and it's not even in a super desirable area nor is it a very nice building. If you plotted this chart out with real data from seattle, it would generally make sense.(Note: i was going to do this, but i had a hard time finding apples-to-apples data from 1990, or 1994/5 and now)

My dad made like 50k when i was a kid and supported my entire family. And i felt like we were doing pretty good. We had a computer when those were $$$ and internet before a lot of other people, i had lots of video games, all our furniture/house stuff was nice.

In 2014, living on about that "average starting wage" amount of money combined with my partner, i feel like i'm cutting it pretty close. I hunted long and hard to find the cheapest apartment i possibly could, and if the rent goes up too much and i have to move i'll be living paycheck to paycheck.

Just in the past 6 years i've watched rents essentially double everywhere in the city, and outlying places that lag behind are instantly filled. Meanwhile, wages haven't really done shit. I hear the same story from friends in many other major/coastal cities.

Averaging the whole country seems kind of useless when a majority of people live on the coasts, and in or around major cities. Yea, if i go an hour out of town it's still cheap... but people try to live near where they work(or work near where they want to live) and that used to just kind of be a done deal. It's not anymore, a lot of the time for millineals or whatever you want to call 20somethings. Everyone is getting pushed further and further out or having roommates well in to when getting a Real Job 20 years ago meant getting entirely your own apartment.

The only people i know who have 100% their own apartment live in a shoebox sized place in a sketchy part of town that has pests and shit, or have some kind of inheritance, family money, or parental assistance they're partially living off of. The closest everyone else gets is "oh, my SO has a semi-decent job too so we can split a one bedroom barely". And this happened fast enough that when i got my first job in high school i was like "yea, i can get a studio when i turn 18 and pick up some more hours.

So yea, sorry if it stings a little when people tell me i'm making these changes up.
posted by emptythought at 12:33 PM on April 21 [1 favorite]


Is this averaged out across the country or something?

Of course it is. That's what national-level statistics are, for God's sake.

because this is just markedly not true in seattle

Whereas in other areas, the average starting salary for new college graduates grew by more than the local cost of living grew. Averaged across people, new college grads did slightly better than beat the cost of living.

Averaging the whole country seems kind of useless when a majority of people live on the coasts, and in or around major cities.

It's averaged across people, not land area. So it looks at the cost of living where the people are living.

So yea, sorry if it stings a little when people tell me i'm making these changes up.

You're not making them up. You're just incorrectly generalizing from your local surroundings where housing costs exploded. Lots of other metro areas didn't see anything like the same growth in housing costs and instead saw either boring growth along with inflation or have actually remained pretty much flat, even in nominal terms.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:24 PM on April 21 [4 favorites]


So, roughly twenty years ago, when I was in high school, we had a semester-long economics class, and it had a personal finance component. The most memorable part was the "Get A Life" project, in which we planned out budgets for our potential lives on our own, with as much supporting documentation as we could round up. We had a blast min-maxing the thing and sharing information on the cheapest options for various parts of it (I'm pretty sure a whole lot of us ended up renting mobile homes in the middle of nowhere) or constructing detailed weekly meal plans reliant on cheapass junk food.

But that meant we could have ridiculously large book budgets and put serious money into savings, and have cars and insurance for them and all sorts of things as a trade-off, on a newish teacher's salary (we all had to use the same wage info -- our teacher's.) Now it's all the min-maxing without all the benefits and none of the fun. I'd love to see my actual project again, and compare the numbers I used then with how things actually turned out. I expect it'll be pretty demoralizing.
posted by asperity at 1:58 PM on April 21 [1 favorite]


And "there's plenty of evidence they aren't sitting around with their thumb up their ass" is the argument I'm making.

Activity is not the same as doing something useful. I don't think anyone here is saying millenials are literally idle all day, though a few of us might be saying that they are unfocused on actually resolving their situation and instead try fairytale approaches (etsy, kickstarter, going to gradschool to double down on degrees that aren't working, etc.).
posted by rr at 2:52 PM on April 21


So, roughly twenty years ago, when I was in high school, we had a semester-long economics class, and it had a personal finance component all else aside, this is awesome and more schools should do this. There is a serious lack of financial literacy in HS graduates. I am curious where you went to school and what you thought of one of GenX's stereotypical whines (predatory credit cards) at the time.
posted by rr at 2:54 PM on April 21


Yeah, I think the idea that Millenialsis aren’t trying anything new is off base, if anything it’s the opposite; there seemed to be too much of an idea for a while that this "follow your bliss" shit just worked. There seemed to be a lot of young people that thought they’d just go to school, take on a shitload of debt, move to one of the most expensive cities in the country, and this would all just work out. Probably because people were telling them that.

Most of the people I know got a very different message in the past; be careful, don’t take too many chances or you’ll starve.
posted by bongo_x at 3:02 PM on April 21


I am curious where you went to school and what you thought of one of GenX's stereotypical whines (predatory credit cards) at the time.

That was at a public school in Florida. The problem with predatory credit cards, from what I've read and from the people I've spoken with about them, is less that they didn't know they were a bad idea, but that they were the only source of money at a time when it was needed. For every person who ran up stupid shopping sprees and bar tabs, there's another who needed funds for non-emergency (but still medically necessary) surgery, or who needed car repairs to get to work, or who was trying to pull together extra funds to stay in school when financial aid didn't come through. Generally not the smartest way to deal with financial problems, but hardly unsympathetic enough that I count people having trouble paying them off as whining.

Personal finance classes aren't all that uncommon in the US, but there's only so much they can do when you can't find a real job that'll cover the real expenses you've got and can't budget your way out of.
posted by asperity at 3:20 PM on April 21


"Activity is not the same as doing something useful. I don't think anyone here is saying millenials are literally idle all day, though a few of us might be saying that they are unfocused on actually resolving their situation and instead try fairytale approaches (etsy, kickstarter, going to gradschool to double down on degrees that aren't working, etc.)."

Yes, a few of you might be just making bullshit up based on a weird judgmental attitude toward millennials and assuage your own feelings of personal failure and misery by disparaging a generation based on the "fairytale" approaches of a minority. Why you'd want to do so in public is beyond me, but no one can stop you.
posted by klangklangston at 4:21 PM on April 21 [3 favorites]


You get that I wasn't the one who brought up Kickstarter in the first place right?
posted by rr at 4:33 PM on April 21


ROU_Xenophobe, I think emptythought does have a point that country-level averages could obscure trends happening on a finer-grained spatial scale. It also sounds like we need to consider the variance as well as the average, given that wage inequality has apparently been increasing since the mid-80s, which seems like it could make the average misleading. But this isn't my area.
posted by en forme de poire at 5:02 PM on April 21 [1 favorite]


I don't think anyone here is saying millenials are literally idle all day....

Actually, that was indeed what I thought nixerman was saying here, yes.

You get that I wasn't the one who brought up Kickstarter in the first place right?

Oh, I know that alright. Rather, I'm wondering why you're so obsessed with disproving my point when you weren't even the person who made the comment I was responding to when I brought it up in the first place.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:06 PM on April 21


Activity is not the same as doing something useful. I don't think anyone here is saying millenials are literally idle all day, though a few of us might be saying that they are unfocused on actually resolving their situation and instead try fairytale approaches (etsy, kickstarter, going to gradschool to double down on degrees that aren't working, etc.).

I don't think any of this is flatulent unless you're looking for a way to attack someone unfairly. Several friends of mine have turned etsy shops into full time jobs that pay 100% of their expenses and are actively making them bankable money on top of that.

"You're digging your own hole" is pure punching down, and not even making a good faith attempt at resolving the actual issues.

Kids were getting those degrees because they were told they weren't trying/doing anything/going to be able to do anything if they didn't. Then when that wasn't the master key to a Good Job people like you are saying that they're just doing "fairytale things".

There's no magic right thing to be doing. This is the highest order of victim blaming, honestly. And on top of that i think it's really messed up to crap on someone for trying a creative solution when everything they've been told to do and been instructed is the right way to do things does nothing.

The grad school thing is especially cutting to me though. If you get to that point and decide to just stop with a BA/BS, then plenty of people are going to tell you that you "bailed out" or whatever and didn't try hard enough. If you keep digging deeper thinking you see a job at the end of the tunnel, then you're taking a "fairy tale approach" and not cutting your losses when it's smart or whatever.

This is total armchair quarterbacking and it sucks. This isn't just a you thing, but a lot of people need to stop doing it. It's almost always coming from a position of faux-wisdom derived from age, but also from growing up in a different climate of reality... and generally from a position of privilege as well since most people who make these types of comments have at least a semi decent job and are just telling people they should have zigged when they zagged because it makes them feel like they had more agency in their own lives, and made the smart right decisions at the perfect moments... when in reality there was probably a hell of a lot more right place at the right time then you'd like to admit.

You're not making them up. You're just incorrectly generalizing from your local surroundings where housing costs exploded. Lots of other metro areas didn't see anything like the same growth in housing costs and instead saw either boring growth along with inflation or have actually remained pretty much flat, even in nominal terms.

This is fair, but i also think it's pretty fair that a hell of a lot of the criticism about millineals is centered around young people in those major metro areas where that explosion occurred. I've run through this habitrail of discussion before. When people are discussing these issues they're pretty blatantly picturing a specific kind of person in one of those cities, but then when anyone tries to fire back with the fact that no, wages aren't keeping course with housing expenses/cost of living then the national statistics come out.

It kinda ignores the fact that in the places where housing didn't skyrocket there aren't any jobs. Seriously. Everyone i know who lived somewhere like that moved to a major city because they couldn't even get a job working part time at a grocery store in a smaller town where stuff was still affordable. The places this is smacking the hardest are the places where everyone flocked because that's where the work is, that's where the school is(or that's where the work is after school in that area). Is it logical that this has driven up housing prices? yea. But it kinda invalidates the national averaged out stuff.

You're extrapolating from the fact that this isn't a problem nationally to it not being a problem for a lot, or even most people. I have a lot of friends and acquaintances up and down the west coast, in austin, nola, and on the east coast. And this hammer is dropping everywhere. I mean yea, you could move to nebraska and your dollar would go sooo far. but that's not what people are doing, or experiencing for the most part. And it's also kinda unfair to expect people to oftentimes, move out of cities they grew up in because otherwise they're just doing it to themselves or whatever by choosing to live somewhere expensive.

There's just this 1-2 punch going on of "you're exaggerating it" and "you're obviously lazy and not doing the right thing i think you should be doing so you must just be a slacker"

I've seen elements of both in this thread, honestly.
posted by emptythought at 5:07 PM on April 21 [5 favorites]


"I gave you a link previously to BLS data that you are welcome to look at. You do not get to choose to look at the overall unemployment rate when better numbers are available that more accurately describe the situation."

You gave a link to the last two years of BLS data, chachi. How long is a generation? Is it two years? I do get to chose to look at overall unemployment numbers when a) college-graduate questions didn't get added to the data set until '92, and if we're making generation-level comparisons, having more than one generation of data is important, and b) college-graduate employment rates are highly correlated with the general unemployment rate. Further, it's disingenuous to claim that the unemployment picture hasn't been especially dire for recent grads, given that the upswing in unemployment lasted longer than it had in other previous recessions, and that we've only now dropped below the peak unemployment of the early '90s for recent grads. Your charts literally do not say what you think they say.

"Furthermore And ignoring loan debt as related to unemployment who is ignoring loan debt? I've mentioned it in every single post. College level unemployment and starting wage depression are both more fiction than fact."

You dismissed it as a symptom of larger issues, which conveniently aligned with your jeremiad, c.f.: "Once you strip away the convenient fictions ("no jobs", "making less") it is about more than just the student loan debt."

So, no, the other factors are not fiction, and your dismissal is a facile segue for you back to your hobby horse: "There is an invincible wall of voluntary ignorance on this topic (see "no jobs" "wages lower" etc. etc. arguments above) in a weird attempt to coddle the millenials even more than has already been done. All this is accomplishing is delaying their growing up even more."

Yeah, yeah, "coddling," "growing up," you're cherry-picking data and using it as an excuse to bitch about millennials in a totally jerk-off way. You're confusing cynicism with wisdom and your problems for theirs. Which, hey, sounds like you're fitting that Gen X stereotype! Good job!

"You get that I wasn't the one who brought up Kickstarter in the first place right?"

No, you were the one who confused being snide with an argument and came across like a blowhard asshole.
posted by klangklangston at 5:20 PM on April 21 [1 favorite]


This is fair, but i also think it's pretty fair that a hell of a lot of the criticism about millineals

I'm not criticizing millennials and am sorry if I sounded like I was.

It kinda ignores the fact that in the places where housing didn't skyrocket there aren't any jobs. Seriously. Everyone i know who lived somewhere like that moved to a major city

I gather you think I meant, by not-Seattle, little podunk places or, as you note, Nebraska. I didn't. I meant places like Dallas/Fort Worth, Atlanta, Charlotte, Raleigh. Major cities, with jobs. I can't easily speak for rental prices, but home price indices are common enough. Atlanta is up about 14% since 2000, or at an annual rate of 1% if the handy compounding calculator can be trusted. Charlotte is up about 24%, or 1.7% annually. Raleigh about 29% or 2% annually. D/FW is up 42%, more than I'd have thought, but still only 2.7% annually.

Of course, there being (more) jobs in (relatively) affordable Atlanta doesn't help you bubbly, cripplingly expensive Seattle. Yeah, you could relocate across the country to a place that's probably substantially more alien to you than moving to Vancouver would be and have probably have better luck making ends meet. But you'd be making ends meet in Atlanta or Charlotte, far away from home and kin and in cities that many might consider kinda dull, so it's understandable why a lot of people don't.

I'm really not criticizing you or millennials for how you're living your lives. My sole point is that the US is not Seattle or people you know. If you want a decent summary picture of what's happening to young people in the US, look at the data.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:07 PM on April 21 [1 favorite]


> But you'd be making ends meet in Atlanta or Charlotte, far away from home and kin and in cities that many might consider kinda dull, so it's understandable why a lot of people don't.

I love having the option to move far away and happily availed myself of it. But more and more I realize that for many, even most, people it's weird and can be severely disruptive. The endlessly relocatable worker-cog ideal aside, you can end up in a part of the country you've never been, feeling culture shock you didn't expect, trying to work through a job hunt with few resources and no one to give you a hand. I think that's much more of a barrier than a town's perceived dullness quotient.

(Also, Atlanta? Fits what younger folks see as happinin', I think, which hunch is possibly reflected by the population bump in ages 20-34 there, less pronounced but otherwise similar to Seattle. Less true with DFW, but kids and teens aside, the the peak is still squarely on 25-29. Really not that different from an ostensibly more desirable city like NYC. Data is from 2010, and I don't know enough about the contexts of each city to otherwise account for the prominence of folks 20-34.)
posted by postcommunism at 7:39 AM on April 22


I love having the option to move far away and happily availed myself of it. But more and more I realize that for many, even most, people it's weird and can be severely disruptive. The endlessly relocatable worker-cog ideal aside, you can end up in a part of the country you've never been, feeling culture shock you didn't expect, trying to work through a job hunt with few resources and no one to give you a hand. I think that's much more of a barrier than a town's perceived dullness quotient.

Moving cross-country for a job can be expensive, unless you're in a situation where you have a car-full of possessions and a sofa to crash on and you're not looking for highly specialized work. I know people who are all "oh, I'd like to move to [wherever], I'll just pack up my futon, a couple of cartons of books and cooking gear and two suitcases of clothes and crash on my buddy's punk house floor until I get some restaurant work and can afford my own room" - and that works for them because they don't really care what kind of work they do, they have a free place to stay until they get work and they will basically dumpster food if they can't buy it, do without medical care until they need to go to the ER and then dodge the bill, etc. And I surmise that these people are a bit anomalous, in that they are working class people (everyone always thinks this type of punk is middle class, but not IME) who don't have a lot of close family ties and are not responsible for helping with the family budget, caring for a disabled family member, etc.

The kinds of jobs where you are recruited cross-country are mostly higher-end professional jobs - no one is recruiting secretaries at the national level. Some young kid with a BA who wants a white-collar job - it's a lot harder to find that kind of work in a new city, you're less likely to be crashing on the punk house floor and relocation cost adds up.

I used to ask one of my friends who hated where he lived why he didn't just up and move to my city - and because I was a clueless idiot, I did not realize that he would have to have a chunk of cash for an apartment and a chunk of cash to sustain himself while he job-hunted and would no longer be able to avail himself of the network that got him his then-job. And it was just a regular back-office tech job, not the kind of thing where Google is offering you moving expenses or whatever. There are far more ordinary people for whom this is typical employment than there are people who can either cut all their ties and move to some blue collar boom town or get recruited into a skilled occupation that requires a professional degree.

Some folks move for work and it's great - I'm not saying that no one can. But some people also build a career selling things on Etsy.
posted by Frowner at 8:11 AM on April 22 [3 favorites]


The larger a city's population, the more likely you're going to know someone living there, and the more likely you can get some help from them (crash space, etc.) while you're starting out in a new place.
posted by asperity at 8:27 AM on April 22


I love having the option to move far away and happily availed myself of it. But more and more I realize that for many, even most, people it's weird and can be severely disruptive.

Geographical mobility in the US has been dropping for some time. (Check out this chart from the Census, for example; more charts on this page.) There was a 2012 FPP focusing on the lack of mobility of the same educated 20-somethings being discussed here, also.

For me, as someone who has moved repeatedly (including internationally) both for relationships and for work, it's an abiding puzzle how so many people in the US stay in economically bad situations rather than move. Intellectually I understand the emotional and practical reasons people don't move, but if I'm being totally honest that still feels foreign to me.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:00 AM on April 22


Moving to a new city involves a huge amount of work and expense. I'm older so my personal infrastructure is planted a lot deeper than someone in the millennial generation but the idea of uprooting and moving somewhere else is just way too complicated for me to even think about. Having to figure out a new job, a new residence, health insurance, car insurance, car registration, voter registration, local taxes, and finding my way around a new city would just be too much for me to cope with.
posted by octothorpe at 10:16 AM on April 22


It's really fucking costly to move, and people who would have been the main movers in an industrial economy, those with less education but the promise of good manufacturing jobs, are now less able to afford to move with less certain prospects at the end. Even stuff as simple as gas prices plays a big role.
posted by klangklangston at 10:17 AM on April 22


It's not convenience that drove prior geographic mobility. It was desperation.

It's not gas prices, it's the availability of jobs. And more importantly it's the gossip of available jobs.

While Oklahoma City might have unemployment of five percent and downright cheap rent, it isn't hailed as an excellent second chance. Americans are too caught up in the story of America's downfall, statistics be damned. And that's pretty terrifying, considering one of the most reliable indicators of economic growth is economic confidence.
posted by politikitty at 11:10 AM on April 22


One statistic does not capture the entire situation. What is the salary distribution in OKC? In which sectors are jobs are available? What does unemployment look like across demographics? etc.

And even if all of these things are completely perfect and favorable, presumably even OKC has a finite ability to absorb job-seekers from the rest of the country.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:26 PM on April 22


"It's not convenience that drove prior geographic mobility. It was desperation."

Yes and no. There's still a fair amount of geographic mobility, even as it has decreased since prior peaks (like the Great Migration). And those costs weigh on both the poor and the well-to-do.

"It's not gas prices, it's the availability of jobs. And more importantly it's the gossip of available jobs."

Sort of, but it feels like you're constraining your perceptions to the mass migrations of the early 20th century (and maybe reconstruction), without taking into account things like changes in mass media and the decline of clear regional unskilled industrial jobs — the only place I can think of where someone without a college degree could move and find a lucrative job right now is the Dakota tar sands, and plenty of people are doing just that. But it's nothing next to the slaughterhouses or railroad works of Chicago, or the auto factories of Detroit.

"While Oklahoma City might have unemployment of five percent and downright cheap rent, it isn't hailed as an excellent second chance. Americans are too caught up in the story of America's downfall, statistics be damned. And that's pretty terrifying, considering one of the most reliable indicators of economic growth is economic confidence."

Yeah, reasons why Oklahoma City isn't a great pick for me: They have fewer jobs in my industry in general, they pay about a third less than where I live now. They also have a jackass governor and legislature, which means that if I end up losing my job, it's much less likely that there will be any real social support, and it means that if I have kids, they'll go to shittier schools and be at a disadvantage in terms of education.

And if I didn't have a job, why would I go there? Low unemployment, but, again, few jobs in my industry. I'm not moving across states to flip burgers. Hell, I'd have a better shot moving to a bigger city and finding something off the books there. The Okies had the right idea — California or bust.

So, statistics there aren't all you're making them out to be, honestly. I'd do better moving to the SF area, where there's 6% unemployment and housing is generally more expensive, but there are jobs in my area there.
posted by klangklangston at 1:34 PM on April 22


It's not that your quibbles don't have any merit, it's just that those quibbles have always existed about picking up and trying the next city or state over.

It's *always* been easy to come up with reasons not to move. That's why most people don't move. Each year only four percent of Americans move cities or states. It used to be six to seven percent. But change happens on the margins, and that decline in a willingness to pick up and move to greener pastures means that labor markets heal themselves slower than they did in past recessions.
posted by politikitty at 2:00 PM on April 22


"It's not that your quibbles don't have any merit, it's just that those quibbles have always existed about picking up and trying the next city or state over."

Really? The ability to instantly do cost of living analyses or look at actual job prospects before moving has always existed? I mean, I get what you're saying about desperation, but I think you're overstating the effects of desperation relative to the decreasing ability of otherwise financially-secure people to move.

"It's *always* been easy to come up with reasons not to move. That's why most people don't move. Each year only four percent of Americans move cities or states. It used to be six to seven percent. But change happens on the margins, and that decline in a willingness to pick up and move to greener pastures means that labor markets heal themselves slower than they did in past recessions.

Actually, it's about four percent of people who move to a new county. About 3 percent move across state lines. (This is good reading: PDF.)

Other interesting things from that paper, even though it's a couple years old:

Migration for college has increased (more young people travel further for school); home ownership is negatively correlated with migration and home ownership increased over the last decade until the crash; and that migration is procyclical, i.e. more people move in good times than bad.
posted by klangklangston at 2:36 PM on April 22 [1 favorite]


The A-1 excel spreadsheet. Since 2005, the number of people who have moved across state lines hasn't exceeded 2 percent.

Prior to 1990, it was regularly 3 percent. Your article is using data before 2005, which seems disingenuous since you're trying to talk about how everything has changed since the 2008 crisis.
posted by politikitty at 2:48 PM on April 22


This is good reading: PDF.)

That is a fascinating article. The main conclusion seems to be:

However, we believe that the decrease in mobility is best-understood as a longer-term trend, and that the economic contraction and the housing market bust appear to have contributed relatively little in addition to the longer-run factors.

If it's a phenomenon that started in the 1980s and has continued largely unaffected by demographic or cyclical issues, my vote would be to look closely at the role of growing inequality as a disincentive to move (and perhaps something felt most intensely by the young). You have to believe that you will do enough better in the new place to make the move worthwhile, and with 90 percent of us are crammed into a very compressed income range, there just isn't much room for improvement, perhaps.
posted by Dip Flash at 3:04 PM on April 22 [1 favorite]


"The A-1 excel spreadsheet. Since 2005, the number of people who have moved across state lines hasn't exceeded 2 percent."

No, in 2011-2012, the last year we have available, people who moved across state lines are estimated at 2.2 percent (7070345/310212755), with a margin of error of 58599 people.

"Prior to 1990, it was regularly 3 percent. Your article is using data before 2005, which seems disingenuous since you're trying to talk about how everything has changed since the 2008 crisis."

Please read more carefully: The cited source for that table is based on 2009 ACS data, with the author's correction for ACS's inflated imputation based on data from 1990-2005. The 2005 date refers to a paper that described methodological flaws in the ACS migration computations.

And it's not disingenuous at all to use this 2011 paper to show that the declines in migration are correlated better with a 30-year trend than with any significant changes after the market crash. There may still be some, but it looks dubious now.

As for more recent research, this paper (PDF) seems to imply that the more recent declines in internal migration aren't as a result of fewer people moving OUT of more economically depressed areas, but rather that more economically depressed people have fewer moving IN, which would also weigh against the "desperation" thesis. (Though she doesn't seem to quantify the overall effects, at least in my quick perusal.)

And another paper (PDF) finds that college graduates are 5 to 15 percent more likely to migrate internally than non-degree holders, which would also support the idea that the declines in migration are not due to changes in "desperation," and that your dismissal of "convenience" ends up being wrong about the mechanism of current US internal migration.
posted by klangklangston at 4:28 PM on April 22


As a boomer, I would say firstly, stop reading all these articles we write about your generation! You are you; you are not a generation. I went through many years myself wondering why I was so different from the articles written about my own generation back then.

I don't know what your ideal job would be, but maybe analyze characteristics rather than job title. Do you want to get rich or middle class, self-employed or part of a group, indoor versus outdoor? Start from there. You may end up with three our four careers before you are done.

Do you want to get married and have kids? Don't wait too long on this one. Most people are happier with a family unit.

You may want to move while you are young and unattached. A young lawyer I know is moving to Singapore for a new opportunity. Mass culture being what it is, you will find kindred spirits about everywhere.

Most of all, don't live by our rules. We found out we could not wait forever to have kids. We didn't have hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt for our education. Stick to the tried and true and you'll be fine. It's all a fine adventure, you know.
posted by PJSibling at 7:35 PM on April 22 [2 favorites]


"Do you want to get married and have kids? Don't wait too long on this one. Most people are happier with a family unit."

Most people are happier in a long-term pair bond relationship; having kids has very little reported effect on happiness, and may be a net detriment to happiness.

Most people want kids, but (not having them myself) I've been told that they're the sort of thing that changes everything else, and that people often don't have a clear view of that until it's happened.
posted by klangklangston at 11:05 PM on April 22 [1 favorite]


Okay, don't then, klang. :)
posted by PJSibling at 7:11 AM on April 23 [1 favorite]


The larger a city's population, the more likely you're going to know someone living there, and the more likely you can get some help from them (crash space, etc.) while you're starting out in a new place.

This is myopic, like almost to the point of being amusing.

It depends on so many external factors, and plenty of personal factors to. Where did you grow up? How many people tend to stick around in that town vs moving away after highschool or college? Where do they go, and is it mostly just to the nearest major city(or another similar city) and not much else? I could add more to that list, but then there's also...

How many friends do you have? You're kind of SOL on this if you were more than a little bit introverted in high school and college. are you still in contact with any of them? Do you know specifically that any of them moved to cities you'd want to move to? And more there too.

There's so many failure modes of this assumption. Plenty of people live in communities where they will be one of the few to move cross-coastally/cross country or whatever. Not that there won't be other people from their city where they end up, but the more factors apply the more unlikely it is that they'll know any of them.

I honestly feel privileged that this does apply to me and i could likely do this in several different cities(and possibly even outside the US). And i'm one of my only friends with enough connections and friends outside of the city to do that in more than maybe one place for a few days... And i feel like it's mostly because i had lots of friends in HS and college, and through the end of high school and undergrad i was in a band that was vaguely known of locally and played a lot of shows, and also did concert photography and a bunch of other stuff that made me acquaintances/contacts.

This is the kind of thing you only get to do if you push on networking, for the most part. Nearly all the people i know who moved long distances did it either with family/family friend connections(like staying on some distant uncle/other relatives couch for a couple weeks or months), or are the kind of confident and charismatic people who are willing to 100% wing it and can also make new friends ridiculously quickly who instantly want to help them do everything.

I'll also note that most of the people i've known who did this were firmly in the category Frowner described above. I only know maybe two people who were actually into Real Careers™ who moved like that. And when they did, it ended up being a massive fraught hassle that cost them orders of magnitude more money than they expected it to even though they generously planned ahead with savings and such.

For me, as someone who has moved repeatedly (including internationally) both for relationships and for work, it's an abiding puzzle how so many people in the US stay in economically bad situations rather than move. Intellectually I understand the emotional and practical reasons people don't move, but if I'm being totally honest that still feels foreign to me.

It makes perfect sense from my side of the curtain. Barring the "fuck it, there's nothing left here for me and i have an offer of a floor to crash on in XYZ city" punk-types from the aforementioned frowner post above... if you have barely enough money to scrape by, what's left of your "network" is in the city you're currently in, and you'd be essentially shooting into the unknown... why would it seem like a responsible decision? There's the possibility of some nebulous job waiting for you, but if it falls through now you're stuck in a new town having broken your lease/etc at your former home and now you're just fucked somewhere where you know only a couple people(who are quickly tiring of you, now that you're in their face) or no one and where there is no sympathy for your plight.

It's one thing when you're 23 or whatever and just washing glasses at a bar or pulling coffee or something and don't really give a shit anyways(and also, likely, still have some sense of Adventure and like a romantic ideal about striking it out on your own. American dream and whatnot). But once you've like, lived even just barely enough life that it's cockslapped you a few times you're probably pretty wary unless you have a damn good reason or are for other reasons just completely fed up with the town you're in.

Everybody always talks about finding your tribe, your network, your support system, whatever. And then they get confused when people don't want to leave that behind because it's just so obvious to an outside observer that it's the smart choice. I realize you qualified what you said with that you understand it on an intellectual level and such, but i actually have trouble seeing your side of it... and this is coming from someone who is slowly getting closer and closer to wanting to bail the fuck out on their current city.
posted by emptythought at 11:35 AM on April 24 [5 favorites]


It's one thing when you're 23 or whatever and just washing glasses at a bar or pulling coffee or something and don't really give a shit anyways(and also, likely, still have some sense of Adventure and like a romantic ideal about striking it out on your own. American dream and whatnot).

Which is why every time anyone younger than 25 asks me if they should move to LA, SF, NY, etc. I always say yes. Yes, do it now. You may not like it, it probably won’t work out, and God knows I’m not going to do it again, but you will not do it later.
posted by bongo_x at 12:03 PM on April 24 [1 favorite]


The larger a city's population, the more likely you're going to know someone living there, and the more likely you can get some help from them (crash space, etc.) while you're starting out in a new place.

This is myopic, like almost to the point of being amusing.


Well, I am pretty damned nearsighted.

No matter where you grow up, most people growing up with you are probably going to be staying put, or only moving short distances. If they move outside that general area, though, odds are it's to a larger city. Most people who move any significant distance are moving into cities, because that's where the jobs are.

It's obviously not a sure thing that you do know people in other places, or that they'll be willing to help you, or that you'll be willing or able to ask for help, but I didn't say it was, just that the odds are better in larger cities.
posted by asperity at 2:15 PM on April 24


Why Americans Are Moving Less: New Jobs Aren't Worth It
posted by octothorpe at 5:11 AM on April 28 [1 favorite]


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